Death by Dysentery vs. Death by Alien Life Form – The Gap Between the Gen Y’s

 I was never good at The Oregon Trail. I think the two main factors that contributed to me always losing this game were a.) I am not good at sacrifice and b.) I am very impatient. I was never willing to kill an oxen so my starving band of travelers could eat or set up camp somewhere in Podonk, Nebraska for eight weeks so my fictitious husband could nurse his disease-infested ankle. One time, I almost did reach Willamette Valley. I was dying from typhus and was missing a foot and the rest of my team was dead and I was all out of food, but by God, I was almost there! I was almost to the holy lands! And then, an icon popped up on my screen that said “You died from exhaustion” and I put my fist through the monitor. 
The Oregon Trail is one of many cultural icons that older Gen Yers remember. However, my eleven-year-old niece would have no clue what I was talking about if I told her that my favorite part of the game was hunting 2-pixel bison through an on-screen crosshair controlled by my mouse.

Even though we are technically part of the same generation, my niece and I are what seems like decades apart in terms of technology and culture. When I was eleven (I’m 26 now), I was using dial-up Internet and listening to All-4-One on my Discman. I didn’t even own a cellphone until I was a junior in high-school, and my first one was one of those giant Nokea phones that was the size of a small dog. My niece owns an iPod Touch and can navigate her mother’s iPad as easily as I could navigate the gameboard of Candyland when I was her age.

The book Gen Buy was the first to recognize this “gaplet,” the deep cultural and technological chasm that separates the first decade of Generation Yers (born 1978 – 1987) from  the second (1988-2000).

This gap doesn’t just separate Gen Y in terms of Sega vs. Wii or AOL chatrooms vs. YouTube and Skype. It separates us on a social and intellectual level as well. Take for instance the usage of texting or social networking sites such as Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. When I was in high-school, I got in contact with my friends by either calling them on their landline phones, emailing them, or messaging them on AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).

This instant connection to the world that younger Gen Yers have come to expect has made them a little more impatient than their older counterparts. They no longer need to watch commercials. They can simply DVR their favorite television episodes and then fast-forward through the commercials. Instead of calling friends to arrange weekend plans on a Wednesday afternoon, they can either send out a mass text or a Twitter update late Friday night and still have enough time to catch that killer movie or awesome house party.

But with this new instant access technology has been able to provide young Gen Yers with, there is also an entire mess of problems that can accompany it. The Internet has made it easier for vicious teenager bullies to gang up and target an individual. Instead of tripping a girl in the hallway or passing a mean note about somebody in class, teenagers can now use cyberspace as a way of mentally torturing their peers. Take for example the case of Megan Meier, the thirteen-year-old girl whose suicide was the result of a cruel cyber hoax. The tween hung herself in a bedroom closet after receiving disturbing emails from a boy that she had befriended on Myspace. The boy, it turns out, never even existed.

Even though we are all part of Generation Y, those of us born in the ’70’s and early to mid ’80’s are more acquainted with Oregon Trail than we are with the video-game Halo. So what are your thoughts readers? Do you prefer hunting virtual animals for food or hunting virtual aliens for survival? What examples have you seen of the gaplet?


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