First we had the Baby Boomers, then we discovered The Greatest Generation, next was Generation X, then Generation Y with their first cousins, the Millennials. These terms are a succinct way of demystifying the motivations and mindsets of millions, and, as such, we've been bombarded with them. But I've always been a verbal pioneer, preferring to let my personal interactions and explorations in the frontiers of social anthropology help me to create my own system of classification.
For instance, my Generation X brothers and sisters can be called "Generation Hook-Up". Most of us were children of divorce or were friends with children of divorce so we had front row seats to people not keeping their promises on an intimate level. We saw corporations breaking their promises to our Boomer parents toiling in the fields of middle management hell, and so we redefined commitment and loyalty. Generation Y or The Millennials can more aptly be described as "Generation Play Date," due to the need on the part of their parents to organize these children into play groups, or "Generation Company Man," because they seem perfectly at home with the structure and authority of groups and organizations. Gone are the days of John "no longer Cougar" Mellencamp singing "I fight authority/authority always wins." No, Generation Company Man is quite comfortable with rules, as long as you praise them every minute with a chipper "good job!" then you're golden.
But now, I'm watching the emergence of what will be the next Generation, raised on the reality television industrial complex. In a constantly expanding media universe there are an infinite number of "contestants" competing for an infinite number of prizes, all living in non-descript communal houses, enduring humiliating challenges and being voted off one by one until, 4-6 weeks later, a winner emerges and they win The Big Prize.
Cupcake makers brought to tears in a one-day challenge where tempers flare, batter flies, and giant cupcake spires teeter on the verge of collapse while the seconds tick away on the giant clock - because there's ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS a clock? Sounds great! Restaurant chefs screamed at and belittled and stripped of their chef's whites one by one until a final cook-off brings the winner fame and a job (even though the job's only for one year)? Sign me up!! Living on a deserted stretch of croc-infested tropical forest, sleeping in mud, and living like Tom Hanks in that movie where he talked to a volleyball after his plane crashed all for a cash prize?? Bring it!!
Welcome to Generation Short Term Goal! They'll endure anything as long as it doesn't last too long and will net them The Big Prize in the end. They'll want it all and they'll get it all without all of that pesky waiting. Want a record contract? Post videos of yourself singing on YouTube, Tweet about it, or put your song on iTunes you'll be a star! Want to be a fashion super model? Skip the cattle calls and simply upload images of yourself to your Facebook page and you'll get the gig! You see, it will no longer be about getting discovered, it will be about getting paid and getting famous!
For this generation, there will be Patron Saints who have successfully worked the formula for Generation Short Term Goal. Consider Snooki. This pint-sized de-poofed self-proclaimed Guido connoisseur and now book author owes her entire career to a video submission to the producers at MTV and her ability to withstand getting sucker punched in front of cameras. And then there's Kim of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, the statuesque wig-wearing singing sensation who parlayed her reality TV shenanigans and extra-marital affairs into musical chart-topping gold, without all of the drudgery of years of singing instruction and singing ability.
Generation Short Term Goal will abolish terms like paying your dues, working your way up, or starting from the bottom. Getting a foot in the door won't be good enough, they'll want more, hell, they'll deserve more, and they'll get it, but they'll get it fast! These people won't fail - they'll simply be voted off, doomed to be recycled on yet another reality show somewhere else in the reality universe where they'll set a course for a whole new short term goal.
In the end, Generation Short Term Goal will want what every other Generation wants - recognition. Boomers want recognition for their sacrifice, Gen X wants recognition of our particular gifts and talents, Millennials want recognition of how hard they work and how valued they are. What will define Generation Short Term Goal will be the means by which they seek this recognition. I can't wait to tune in - I'm Just Saying:)