Why We Are A Restless Generation

by Sonal Batavia

One of the most perturbing things about our generation is precisely this: YOLO.

The acronym YOLO, standing for ‘You Only Live Once’ was a term coined by rapper Drake in 2011 after the release of his song ‘The Motto.” The buzzword, which has since gained mass popularity amongst the Millennials has become the new validation for all of our seemingly, or rather not so seemingly, erratic behaviors. As Drake preaches in the song, “f*** what anybody say,” and more often than not Generation-Y does.

Rebellion has always been a periodic phase amongst young adults across all generations, however the longevity of it has curiously been increasing amongst the Millenials. In other words, the growing trend of Gen Yers quitting their jobs, leaving relationships and on the whole being directionally challenged has become more than just a rebellious phase, but rather an identity: restlessness.

Although YOLO is not the reason we are a restless generation, it is the creation and dispersion of this type of slang, which includes FOMO (Fear of missing out), FML (f*** my life), and my latest personal observation FONA (Fear of No Attention), that highlight what some of the values at the forefront of Generation-Y look like.

According to most of our Boomer parents, growing up in the times of accelerated communication, packaged goods paradise and superior economic comforts deem us as the privileged generation. However, I struggle to believe whether that sentiment is accurate. Sure the Boomers had their challenges; particularly greater economic struggles and higher pressures to adhere to societal norms, but to say our generation by contrast is free from challenges or ones of lesser breadth would be unfair.

In September 2012, Maclean’s featured a cover story on adolescents, titling their story as “The Broken Generation….Why our best and brightest are so troubled.” The article delved into the increasingly higher prevalence of students today with mental disturbances as a result of pressure to be the best in their class, often leading to depression. In a personal study of this group conducted by Cornell psychologist Janis Whitlock, she concludes: “there’s probably never been a more complicated time to be growing up than right now”.

Fast Company’s Robert Safian, coined the term “Generation Flux” last November, to describe a psychographic of individuals that understand “business today can shift radically every three months…because chaos [is] the defining feature...[We are in] an era that refused to settle into a status quo”. Ultimately, Safian alludes to business leaders, that the only way to thrive in today’s society is by being able to quickly respond to the chaos: their clientele.

There is a lot going on in the world, and sometimes it's hard to know what part of that chaos to focus on and where exactly we fit in it. Part of us wants to push and test every limit we can, explore every option we have, maybe save the world too and perhaps also be outrageously irresponsible and reckless.

I am a big advocate when it comes to experimentation. Particularly because I believe it is a great medium of learning yourself exceptionally well and being a richer person overall. However, when the arena of possibilities to make sporadic and unconventional decisions is so vast we keep taking different paths without committing to one, it becomes concerning. We can often find ourselves years later in the same grey area, still no clear direction on what we want out of life and most unfortunately, unhappy.

The biggest challenge we face as a generation is choice overload, and worse, little direction on how to choose correctly. While the opportunity to be more and have more than our parents could ever dream of can be a privilege, it can also be a curse when we find ourselves always curious about the better that may exist. Our choices keep growing and if we consider the role that society has in creating this environment, it’s hard to put blame on solely us for being restless.

In traditional marketing, planning for an ad campaign involves evaluating the level of involvement a consumer has with a product before they make a purchase. A low involvement good would include something like a pack of gum; it's cheap and typically easy to choose between delicious fruity flavors. Whereas a high involvement item would be something like a laptop; it's expensive, has many points of differentiation and is a long-term investment. But nowadays, even easy purchases are highly involving because of the sheer amount of confusing variety; if you’ve bought toothpaste recently, you know what I mean.

I am exhausted of feeling compelled to Google before committing to anything these days. Most recently I found myself searching the benefits of bread: its types, its flavors, its colors. A product that was once considered the most basic and cheapest food staple to humanity now comes in different shapes, sizes, smells, colors and varieties such as gluten-free probiotic-infused wheat that sell for up to $10.

It’s a good thing we have the option to be as informed as we are these days, because in this world it's our passport for survival. Not only can we be experts on a multitude of things via YouTube and others alike, we have to be. The informational chaos, more often than not, is a greater tidal force than our own self-willing capabilities. And in the rare times, we may attempt to rebel against it, we essentially risk becoming a ‘Millenial Hippy.’

Admittedly we are a little screwed up when it comes to morals, values and just knowing how to make intelligent choices all the time. But, if we consider ourselves as the subjects on the testing ground of society's newest advancements, our restlessness as an outcome is only inevitable. The reality is we can look at it as unfortunate for being victims, or we can just continue YOLOing until we figure out how to sort through the mess. On that note, on to the next part of the day #FOMO.

Sonal Batavia | Elite.