Our generation has developed a knack for taking nearly every cultural category and smudging the defining lines. Of course, I’m a middle-class white girl who lives in arguably the most liberal neighbourhood of the most liberal city in America (Capitol Hill, Seattle) so I can only really speak for a certain demographic confidently…but I do feel it’s becoming pretty damn widespread. Hell, we’ve taken electronic music (gaining significance in the ‘60s with more accessibility to synthesizer technology), and made so many sub-genres of it, artists are coming out with music at such a rapid rate that we don’t even bother defining it anymore. We LOVE that shit.

The uncharted territory of a non-labelled people

1980s high school movies all have the jocks and cheerleaders, the nerds and the burnouts, and those strict social groups shown were not far off from the reality of how popularity structure and hierarchy was composed, but we don’t live that way anymore. The way things were seems satirical to current twenty-somethings in Seattle. I’ve listened to The Shins in a pickup truck with a former cheerleader while discussing social injustices towards transgender individuals; how or if or where she fit in was not a concern to either of us. In my mom’s high school, that girl would not have known where the hell to sit at lunch. We are systematically taking every box that older generations have been placing around younger generations for decades, and demolishing them one by one.

Clothes don’t really go “out of style” anymore, for the most part; if you like it, we like it. We are the people of ultimate tolerance and encouragement for all that is weird. We love weird; oddly enough, judgment is often placed upon those who don’t let their freak flag fly. In fact, a widely used term has been adopted for these people, who are referred to with distain as being “basic.” This degrading of another’s persona, in my opinion, contradicts the root idea of uniqueness as a value, and should be addressed as an issue of unfair judgment.

Wannabe hippies with a texting problem

Older generations have called ours the “wannabe hippie generation,” people who share similar core values but are lazier in their cause. The fact of the matter is that yes, the ideology of the flower power movement largely resonates with us, but the hippies of the 1960s fit into a more structured mould. They were pissed off at their parents because they were raised in an era when parents fought hard to not make a lot of waves after the ‘50s, everything was “swell” and “neat,” and living a cookie-cutter life was welcomed and appreciated after the trauma of war.

Their children, however, didn’t understand how hardened they were from the Second World War; they saw social injustices, and wanted to fight the power and spread love. The generation ahead of them consistently told them they were idealistic and erratic, and guess what? They didn’t give a shit! They actually liked it. We love that stick-it-to-the-man persona. They grew their hair out as a symbol of disapproval in the military action and fought back against what they saw as immoral. Our generation loves the way of the 1960s freedom fighter, so why are we so complacent? There is plenty to be worked-up about.

Therein lies the flip side to our generation of expressionists—we love all of that revolution hoopla, we love to dress like rebellious ‘90s grunge icons and free-spirited hippies and say that the world is against us. The problem here is: we generally have the attention span of hamsters, because of social media and constant bombardment from advertising that has erupted in the recent years to horrifying degrees. We’re obsessed with the constant connection that rapidly progressing technology has provided us with and this constant connection is making our generation known for young people immersed in their own digital worlds.

Social media for good, not self-inflation

I mean, the social media revolution route is not unheard of. I’m certainly not the first person with this idea…remember the KONY 2012 project?…Oops (we tried). Our efforts have been stop-and-go (and in the KONY case, ill-informed) potentially because we all have what is now so quickly labelled as “ADD,” which frankly, most of the time is a case of you-need-to-calm-the-fuck-down-and-get-your-shit-done. The hippies couldn’t stop revolutionizing, and we can’t fight our need to be constantly connected. So what do we do? We want to fight the power, we want to celebrate our generation’s affinity for uniqueness and self-expression, but we can barely make it through a six-second Vine without looking for the next thing to connect with. (Vine, by the way, is genius. Absolutely tailor-made for our squirrely brains and desperate need to broadcast our own weird-ass selves).

Here is what I think: our generation does not need to be content with the negative stigma surrounding the technology and media we have the privilege to live around. We have inspiration and admiration for the decades before us and we have begun to combine their ideas and build the foundation of a future where acceptance is widespread. If we focus our spastic attention on the ideas we like (music, art, social justice) and hone in on it using the rapid-fire social media prowess we all have, we could be a generation that takes significant strides towards omnipresent tolerance and equality.

So, my fellow lovers of individuality and expression, I say we do what we do best –BROADCAST IT (and remember to attempt to veer away from the egotistical road self-broadcasting can potentially be). Tweet it, post it, reblog it, YouTube it, Instagram it, Vine it…I could go on. “It” being just about anything you like. Culture in a generation creates social power, and thereby creates an ability to make a difference where it counts.

Social media has given us the tools we need to delve into our individuality and with our budding excitement for the unique self-concept, this could be the generation to raise children who look at another person for who they are, without social stigma or preconceived prejudice.

If what I am doesn’t make any sense to you, look up the ongoing photo project by Brandon Stanton. It’s quick, simple and started as a photo blog (wink wink nudge nudge social media) and has now been transformed into bestselling books and millions of followers. He simply goes up to people (ANY type of people) and strikes up conversation with them, and publishes a photo of them with a snippet from the conversation. Seems simple enough, but these posts are interesting, funny, sad, inspirational, thought provoking, and sometimes just really cute. There’s no trend or ideal candidate that he talks to, and with the excerpts from the conversation, Stanton manages to give insight into these people, whether it be deep or not. He’s respectful and interested, and a lot of people really see that and open up to his questions (hint-hint domino effect). Essentially, he gives readers a simple reminder that each person has remarkable uniqueness; valuable especially in a city where you’re likely to forget that every person you pass by is complex and riddled with ideas and experience that is to be valued. This kind of project is a prime example of how social media and our interest in the individual can be combined for something really interesting and, I think, revolutionary in how we view everyone around us.

Excited individuals > acceptance > progress

And for the selectively-tolerant people out there (my snide neighbours in Capitol Hill, please read carefully) this influx of individual celebration whether it be different from one’s own (yes, I know, this means people who find it in themselves to like Bill O’Reilly) is beneficial—the sharing of thoughts and ideas and the celebration of just that carries the potential to sway judgmental thinking and empower revolutionary ideas. Acceptance is crucial and is theoretically the biggest obstacle to this idea, but it shouldn’t take long for it to become apparent that one’s own uniqueness is no superior to another’s, if everyone gets pumped on his or her wholly true and honest selves.

Weird is good, let’s roll with it.

by Andrea Volken

image:  (Creative Commons BY-NC-SA)