I-(don’t)-Generation

We’re the social-media generation. So, presumably, – we ‘Tap’.

That’s what we’re thought to do. After all, the Baby Boomers went ‘Boom’, didn’t they? Every generation needs some onomatopoeic description, otherwise are they even a generation? But I think that, just maybe, now that everyone else is online too, (including Grandma), the ‘technology-birther social-media-crazed’ description of those of us born relatively recently doesn’t hold up. Surely there has to be something more than the stereotype of a phone-in-the-face teenager…

My generation is the most interconnected generation so far. However, various aspects of the online world stop us from connecting with each other. Language has always been fluid, and there’s always been slang, but expressing oneself online has never been more unteachable than it is today. To be socially coherent online, you must have been weaned from birth onto an online lexicon which is half-composed in videos and images.

Already I notice that I cannot always understand my sister, and this is not because we move in our own online echo-chambers (although we do), it is because she is four years younger than me. Nuances fail us not because of our friendship groups, hobbies, or worldview, but because we are not of the same hivemind. Both of us communicate in memes, emojis, and GIFS, but a complete understanding of them is elusive, because, essentially, social-media as a cultural phenomenon is fascinated with the self-referential. As social-media grows, as it proliferates, and as the age range within which we understand one another contracts, it becomes harder and harder to communicate. We can relate mostly to those who ‘became online’ at the same time as we did.

This esotericism can also be seen when texting in shorthand. In standard English, you can teach sentence stress quite simply. “I will not read this shit.” “I will not read this shit.” “I will not read this shit.” “I will not read this shit.” “I will not read this shit.” They all have different meanings which will be understood if only the learner sticks around. Yet my generation seems to use what could be called (in the interest of mutual misunderstanding and general obscurity) the ghost-of-a-sentence-once-stressed. For example, when we’re on messenger and we say “I mean” to one another, some of us can imply a whole lot more than the usual.  The ‘ghost’ of what we mean is left untexted, and I have put it in brackets…

“I mean” – as in speech, this usually proceeds clarification

“I mean” (yes) – something is said to be obvious

“I mean” (no) – something is said to be ridiculous

“I mean yes” – used to finish a thought or conversation

“I mean yes (but) – in general agreement, but there is more to be said

“I mean no” – used to agree with a negative

“I mean no” (but) – in general agreement; there is not much more to be said

You might not understand; I suppose that’s the point.

‘I-Generation’. ‘Generation Y/Z’. ‘Post Millennials’.

None of these names really stuck. Why? Maybe because there is more that divides us then unifies us, and any generational generalization must account for the ongoing atomization by age. Maybe that’s the shared experience – a disconnected interconnectivity. But it remains the case that my generation are the social-media generation in name only.

I mean…

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