Call Me Gen I, Not Gen Y

By Deborah Klotz

Picture this … I’m 25, I’m female, I work full time in a research company and I’m part of the group that marketers call Gen Y. A typical evening at home looks like this: Flipping through the hundreds of pay per view movie options on my TV, my cell is on speaker and redial voting for my favorite dancer on So You Think You Can Dance, my laptop is streaming the latest tunes from Last FM, I’m mid Facebook conversation with my friend who lives in France, and my iPod is uploading hundreds of new songs to entertain me on my 40 minute commute to work the next morning.

What I do and who I am is certainly typical of Gen Yers but I believe a more accurate label would be Gen I –Generation Innovation. Has there ever been a generation that had so much “New” and “Wow” in their lives? Mostly due to technology, Gen Yers (people who broadly fall between 10 to 30 years) have grown up as masters of multi-tasking. With everything available at our fingertips – fast - we expect instant results, instant connection, instant feedback. Cell phone, texting, emailing and social networks are not only fast ways of communicating, but they also lend themselves to multitasking.

Boomers, on the other hand, are used to telephone communication and may find a text impersonal or even down right rude! I can only imagine what Boomers think of online dating! How could you ever get a feel for someone without meeting them face to face? For Gen Yers there just isn’t time to do all of our socializing over the phone or in person. If I can surf through the profiles of 15 potential dates in half an hour, think of how much time (and agony) I have saved myself in comparison to meeting each one in person. Whereas Boomers often resist “new”, Gen Y can hardly wait for the next big thing. Oh how I love technology!

Although innovation is typically used to describe technology and other tangible products, for me and my generation, the innovation we’ve embraced, more than our iPods, is Facebook. What is WOW about Facebook is how all encompassing it is. I can send email through it, post pictures, interview a potential new roommate from France, find out that friends have gotten engaged or are pregnant, play games, ... I can do so much through Facebook. But if you look beyond the mechanics of Facebook, the real innovation is in the intangibles. Facebook has spawned a whole new vocabulary, it’s totally changed the way people connect and “talk”. Because, you see, we don’t really talk (as in using our voices). Our voice is now a three sentence ramble on Twitter, or a quick text with a totally new language consisting of shorthand (r u ok?) and emoticons : ).

The possibilities are truly endless for innovation in the world of communication. Some upcoming advances will allow you to use license plate numbers like phone numbers, share your YouTube videos at your local cinema, and read books, watch movies and compete in reality TV shows all within videogames. Could we be nearing the day when e-mail becomes overshadowed by v-mail (video mail)? Why type or read a message when you can speak it or watch it? Of course it would make editing a bit more challenging…but think of the time you’d save!

As a generation we’re not intentionally trying to “out-innovate” previous generations. It’s just that we’re naturally more adept at integrating new technologies into our lives whether it’s in communication, messaging or creating our communities. Why not? It’s fun, stimulating and provides endless change and excitement. We don’t even think of it as innovation – it just is! So call us Gen I and you have a more accurate pulse of who we are and what we stand for.

-Originally published in vue magazine, March 2009, by the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association