By: Brenda Robinson
In many of my presentations, I discuss the “I” generation. I talk about how the influences of isolation, insulation, independence, individualism, introversion and sometimes indifference to others and things around us.
I’ve been asking people to think about how children in today’s society each have a room of their own, with a sign on the door that says “Do not enter” or Large Beast at Large.” The overall message is an “I” message – my room, - my territory, - my stuff. Children are increasingly advised to mark out their territory – putting their names on every item. At school they have their own lockers, their own supplies, their own desks and even their own designated seat on the bus.
The need to cooperate and share is limited by the extent of individual possessions – “stuff.” Most children have their own room, their own clothes, their own ghetto blaster, their own TV and DVD player, their own snowboard and skateboard, bike and maybe their own cell phone and computer.
Adults do it too – a television in each room to allow everyone to view with individual preference. Two and three car families to prevent the hassle of sharing and communicating about the use of the family car. Two or three phone lines per home are the norm. Family calendars are being replaced by individual palm pilots or electronic calendar management tools. Passwords, PIN numbers, security codes, user names and individual identification techniques are all a part of the “I” generation. Some people have come to believe that the cultural demography of their era is their destiny, not their choice. However, I continue to believe that as individuals, we may actually have far more control than we believe. The “I” generation may have actually provided a far greater window for individual decision making and individual responsibility.
Growing emphasis on individualism means less emphasis on stereotypes and role types. Personal autonomy and self fulfillment have become critical components of how we work and live in our modern settings. The individual nature of these goals lends itself to individual choices, directions and decisions. We are beginning to view ourselves in more independent and introverted ways. We seem less concerned about “fitting in” and about meeting the expectations of others.
Some of the impact of the “I” generation is visible on the surface. Fashion trends like the poodle shirt or plaid bell bottoms would be not likely to make it in today’s “individualized” world. Teenagers today lean towards individual statements of who they are. Yes, there are still fashion trends, but the colours, accessories, shapes and designs have a more individual and personal flare. Although brand names still hold an appeal, many teenagers shop at value village or bargain stores for a look they can create themselves.
Auto dealers tell us people are increasingly shopping for the car that meets their individual needs. Of course, image is still important, but even the image the car buyers have of him/her self is more personalized and individualized than ever before.
Home Depot, Totem, Revy and other home product retailers can attest to the ever increasing individual plans and designs. Home owners are doing their own things in their own ways and with individual taste and preference. The choices in home decorating are greater than ever before. Why? Because people of the “I” generation are less concerned with the way things should be and more concerned with meeting their own individual needs and wants. The same sentiment is echoed by appliance and furniture sales people and by office furniture firms. This “I” generation is less concerned with popular choice and more concerned with individual preference.
With choice, comes responsibility. With responsibility, comes accountability. Yes, peer pressure still exists, but “going with the flow”, “towing the line” and struggling to “live up to” the expectations of others is having less and less appeal. In our “I” generation style of living we may not know the “Joneses” well enough to know what they have or how to keep up to them. We may make purchasing and lifestyle decisions based on individual and family needs with less emphasis on comparison.
The real test of the positive impact of the “I” generation will be our embrace of diversity. When we are ready to celebrate individual strengths and allow differences to be just differences and not difficulties, we will know the constructive result of the “I” generation. Children with a good “self” concept and a positive “self” esteem will not need to be “just like” everybody else to be cool and accepted. Teenagers will not needs cliques or gangs to feel accepted. Adults will break down the barriers of stereotypical roles and share their individual talents and skills to build strong teams, strong relationships and ultimately strong communities.
The “I” generation is not selfish – just self aware. What a wonderful gift!