Is the Australian media’s obsession with Gen Y universal?
By Rosa Ellen
It’s nice to be made a fuss of occasionally. To have people care what you think, what god you believe in, what you want for Christmas. But, this week at least, the The Age has taken way too much interest in my life.
Like a prying parent following me down the hallway to my room with a Michael Carr-Gregg book in hand. ‘What do you know about social networking?’ ‘Do your friends take drugs?’
It’s a favourite topic for the baby-boomer readership of Fairfax broadsheet. This week the newspaper did some extra digging on the habits and opinions of people aged 20-30 by commissioning trend analysers McCrindle Research to survey over 600 people.
Presented as part of a special three-part report and fleshed out in graphs for readers to see exactly what percentage more their kids are comfortable with casual sex or gay relationships, the stats were exceedingly similar to other Gen Y stories published in the paper.
And if it all seemed like it had been covered before, The Age added, the research showed surprising results. That is, a widely-recognised conservative streak.
In fact – that conservative streak is one of the characteristics that lead to the distinction being drawn between the generations in the first place.
The McCrindle research spawned more news stories throughout the week. On Monday it floated an article on work-life balance, on Thursday another article about Gen Y’s frightening adeptness at technology.
Meanwhile in The Australian Stephen Lunn reports some different stats from trend monitoring gurus Lifelounge claiming Gen Y is in fact ‘returning to books, movies and the theatre, and opting for the art gallery over rave parties.’
Why the attention on Gen Y? Born between 1980 and 2000, it seems we’re turning 30 this year and readers want to know, all at once, exactly who we are and what it is we want. But are these statistics new and are they all that meaningful?
Previously, much of the Gen Y data focused on marketing. Even now, firms such as Lifelounge make appearances in news stories as forecasters of Gen Y music and fashion, rather than political and social shifts. It may be left to youth culture blogs such as Pity the cool to provide some proper analysis on what this all this categorising is really good for anyway.
Elsewhere in the world, Gen Y presents a different story. A much less newsworthy one. In Canada, for instance, some of our Xers would be considered Gen Y. They believe Gen Y started in 1976 and ended in 1999. A good four-years difference which would surely distort The Age’s stats, as well as the legitimacy of Charlie Pickering as Gen X team captain on Talkin ‘Bout my Generation.
While in the US The New York Times all but ignores the significance of Gen Y’s 30th birthday and devotes only a sober scientific analysis of the weakness in generational theories.
After the Australian media’s excitement over us 20-30 year olds dies down, be prepared to start feeling a bit neglected by the broadsheets. But fear not. If I calculate correctly, Gen Z is nigh on 19 years of age and in a year or two will be full of fascinating insights.