An open letter to Gen Y bloggers

Dear bloggers who write about Generation Y constantly:

Please stop. You’re embarrassing yourselves.

How many times can you guys dissect a market?  How many blanket statements can you make about an age group?  For chrissakes, we know Gen Y is different.  We like technology and we’re comfortable with it.  We grew up with Google.  We aren’t as accepting of traditional roles in the office. Blah blah blah. So what? Do you really need to harp on this stuff every day? Are you still going to be talking like that when you’re married with kids?

Watch this, I’m going to sum up your entire platform: “Gen Y is special because we have blogs and other online tools to help us market ourselves. We’re better than everyone else, and smarter than all those stupid people who are over 30. Now let’s spend the next five years in an insular group with zero real-life experience while surrounding ourselves with adults who buy into our B.S. We’ll use them to give us superficial credibility! Oh, and let’s make sure to spend 14-hour days “working” on our laptops, not getting any measurable results, and making sure our skin stays pale.”

Gen Y bloggers spout an endless stream of self-affirming drivel, and it’s insultingly dismissive of older generations. A very close friend of mine is over 60-years-old (he’s part of the Silent Generation, but I’m sure you already knew that).  He understands computers and social media better than most people my age.  “Oh no, he must be a Gen Y in an old person’s body!” Different age groups don’t live in vacuums. An individual is an individual, and people are people. Gen Y, Gen X, Baby Boomers… WHO CARES? They’re nothing but stereotypes!

If you’re a Gen Y blogger, the best-case scenario is that you got caught up in something that appeared to be edgy. You thought, “Hey, this is cool! People my age are getting into this whole online marketing scene. We know what we’re doing, and we can teach others!” But almost all of you have no experience in anything worth talking about (corporate internships, sadly, do not count). The only thing you have to your name is that you can use Facebook and Twitter without having an aneurysm.

And the worst-case scenario is that you are a self-absorbed charlatan who is capitalizing on the confusion of people who are older than us. LinkedIn, Youtube, blogs – they’re just new tools. Knowing how to use social media does not make you smart.

You want to know what Gen Y is? I’ll tell you – we are the current trendsetters. That’s it. And that’s how it has always been with every 20-something generation, until the next one replaces it. We are not special. We are not unique. It’s time to stop stroking each other’s egos and focus on the bigger picture. Trust me, your “expertise” will be irrelevant in a few years.

UPDATE: Two guys I know have written on this topic before — Ryan Holiday and Ben Casnocha.  Be sure to read those, as well — they said it better than I did.

Comments

  1. Ryan Stephens says

    Glad you finally got this bad boy posted. I definitely think there’s a fair number of people who classify themselves as Gen Y bloggers that have this approach. That’s why after my initial reaction to Ryan Holiday’s post aimed at Brazen, I thought there was some merit to his point, just poor tact.

    While I think it’s especially prevalent in the Gen Y communities, I’m tired of the entire social media population saying, “YOU HAVE TO BE ON TWITTER.”

    Guess what? That’s bullshit. You tell me what you want to accomplish with your business, and then I’ll give you a number of solutions and tactics that I think could potentially work. We’ll work together to determine what tools ans strategies you think will benefit you the most, and we’ll execute from there.

    Being a “social media guru/consultant/specialist” whatever doesn’t mean you get to shove the new shiny tool down my throat w/o first having and clear understanding of my business goals and objectives.

    Now do I get a trophy for this comment?

  2. Ryan Holiday says

    It’s not the worst case scenario, it is the unfortunate, glaring reality. You also forgot to link to a site where 100% of the contributors fall into this category.

    If you use a “generation” as some sort of personality identifier and you didn’t fight in a World War, you have nothing to add or contribute to anything in any meaningful way.

  3. Brett Crudgington says

    Some days I get depressed that I’ve been spending too much time hunkered down in my apartment working on my art and other stuff I like, and then I realize that the “cutting edge work” that these Gen Y bloggers are doing is actually the antithesis of busting ass to make something personally meaningful and unique. Nicely done Charlie.

  4. Richard Millington says

    I have something of a different perspective on this.

    Gen-Y bloggers (with some fantastic exceptions) have stumbled upon a group they suddenly realized not only exists, but they’re a member. That’s irresistible.

    Now Gen-Y bloggers are eager to define themselves within that group. They crave the recognition and influence amongst people they now realize are their peers. They’re not writing for anyone else except each other. As a result, they each write very similar content trying to top each other.

    Psychologically, they want to be recognised by people they believe are like them. We define ourselves through the eyes of people in our groups.

    It’s the same across the web. Marketing bloggers, community bloggers, gossip bloggers etc. These groups form and begin writing very similar content. To feel a part of the group they are in.

    So, personally, I have no problem with Gen-Y bloggers being Gen-Y bloggers. They’re mostly a self-contained group. The only people reading Gen-Y bloggers are Gen-Y bloggers and like any group…what is annoying or strange from the outside makes perfect sense inside.

    So let them be…

  5. charhoehn@gmail.com says

    I agree that this dynamic occurs within pretty much every well-defined community. In that sense, I can understand where Gen Y bloggers are coming from. What I have a problem with is their sense of accomplishment and wisdom. They have no experience to back it up.

    I don’t throw stones at people for being excessively confident. But when that confidence is completely unfounded? Come on.

  6. Richard Millington says

    But is it such a bad thing? What’s wrong with Gen-Y bloggers writing about things they think they know? Isn’t that what all blogs are?

    If you take a blog to be an opinion or an idea, how can it be wrong? Or lets consider another direction, if young bloggers can only blog about experiences, what can they blog about?

    Maybe we perhaps be more worried if people only wrote from personal experiences? Should we be more worried if we discarded every post that couldn’t be supported by experience?

    And what happens if then if the experience requires accepted evidence with an approvals process? We end up with academic journals and peer-reviewed committees.

    Maybe it’s foolish to have an issue with one group’s sense of accomplishment and wisdom. It’s easier to ignore them and let them learn their mistakes. Soon they’ll find something that interests them more to blog about.

  7. charhoehn@gmail.com says

    There’s nothing wrong with theorizing or writing about things you’re not sure of. But there is a problem with having an unhealthy amount of self-importance, no matter what age you are. Gen Y bloggers stick close together, affirming their delusional world views and feeding off each other.

    I don’t expect the Gen Y group to have heaps of experience, but I think it’s ridiculous how often they talk about “personal branding” or “how to land that great job” when very few of them have actually built a track record that substantiates their claims.

    But I will agree with you on one thing — it’s better to ignore them : )

  8. Kurtis says

    I agree with you charhoehn. Talking the talk and not the walk. I see where you all are coming from. Some of these generation y people need to get off their ass and stop playing video games all day. But, being one of them myself I have to put up the defense. I think you generalized too much, although you might be a gen y yourself. I think very few of them give that much of a shit. I have a friend who blogs his ass off, but he’s an economics major at the university of maryland, he goes out, gets drunk, and has fun. He simply just writes for himself and his friends. I ask him why he doesn’t try to exploit his shit, and he tells me he doesn’t give a shit. He goes to a school known for journalism, but he just does writing for himself. He actually told me that because he’s an alcoholic he can’t remember all the shit he does so he writes it down like a diary.

    The point is I agree that some kids live through their computers, have no life, and aren’t getting any sun. Some use it to live a life that they wish they could. On the other hand, their are kids that do it for themselves or their friends. He would hate me for doing this, but he’ll never know. Check this out http://theweeklybern.blogspot.com/

  9. charhoehn@gmail.com says

    Oy.

    Kurtis, let me start by saying that I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your comment was well-intentioned and not a shameless plug for your buddy’s site.

    That being said, you either missed the point I was trying to make entirely or you have no idea what kind of people I’m talking about. I’m definitely not making fun of people like your friend (in this specific post, anyways). You have to understand that there’s a HUGE difference between “a person who blogs about Gen Y” and “a blogger who happens to be in Gen Y.” Your friend is the latter, so he is not included in the group this rant is about.

  10. Kurtis says

    charhoehn, thanks for responding. Hoped to not make my post seem like that, but I knew somebody would say that after I posted that.

    Is this exact blog post not blogging about gen y? This topic seems a little contradictory and lame. 1) It’s blogging about gen y. 2) If you point out gen y as being lazy, stuck to the computer, etc. –that means you wasted your time consuming their bullshit. You do say “It’s better to just ignore them,” but you aren’t. And I’m not saying that it’s possible to avoid it either. I say that complaining, calling out, or making fun of a generation seems pretty unbelievable. It’s pretty safe to say that every generation has out done the one before so why hate? I guess I didn’t explain myself very well before. And let’s not get into a philosophical argument…lets just accept the tools we have and the losers that love to overuse them.

  11. charhoehn@gmail.com says

    I am not blogging about or making fun of Generation Y. This post is telling bloggers to stop making such a big deal out of Gen Y. I don’t know how to explain this further, because you’re still confusing the two concepts with each other. Maybe I’m doing a bad job explaining it. Read Ryan’s post that I linked to, and Ben’s. Hopefully those clarify what I’m trying to say.

  12. Grace says

    Charlie, I see your frustration and I totally believe that most of this information, has become repetitive.

    However, should Gen Y bloggers write about a generation that they don’t know about? Isn’t blogging a bit narcissistic anyway? You want people to read your blog, you’re writing your ideas, opinions and beliefs. It’s all about you. Whoever the blogger is.

    This exact blog post could easily be dubbed onto social media “experts” who talk incessantly about social media tools and ideas. It is SO old. Take any topic, if a blogger picks a niche and speaks about it how does it stay new and fresh? It can, but some can’t create it that way.

    Just some thoughts I wanted to throw out there. We are who we are and what intrigues each of us is obviously inherent to our own beliefs.

    Thanks for your insight!

  13. David Niall Wilson says

    This was refreshing. I’ll tell you, a few of us have paid attention through several actual generations, have been on line and blogging since online and blogging existed, and the perspective gained by that isn’t something that being born into the game can do more than emulate. While I might not be able to kick everyone’s ass at halo, I not only know how to write a blog, but how to design the structure supporting it…

    We older folks aren’t useless yet.

  14. Lateef says

    Thanks! Lately, I have been pleasantly surprised with the Silent Generation (oldies) and their adoption of web technologies — they tend to be very loyal to whatever technology they adopt, regardless of how late they were to discover it.

  15. David Spinks says

    Very interesting article. One that actually makes some very good points. I really like your point about people being individuals and not defining people by their generation. That’s very important.

    The only issue I have with this article then is that you did the same thing by lumping all of Gen-Y into the other side of the spectrum. While many of your points are accurate observations of trends in the Gen-Y mentality and their practices, members of Gen-Y are also individuals, the same way your older friend is an individual.

    I do understand what you’re saying though, and agree with many of your points. I think time will weed out those individuals who actually have something of value to offer, regardless of generation.

    Dave

  16. Ben says

    Thank you sweet god! Finally someone letting out some good ole’ fashioned steam against that douche in the obscure coffee shop that he goes to every single night and sits with his Mac until 2 A.M. getting whiter and skinnier eyeballing his screen with the intensity of hungry panda, who looks super busy and focused but is actually not doing anything of any real value to anyone except his imaginary pet squirrel who makes witty remarks to him in a cute little squirrel voice. I think we’ve all been there once or twice, we’ve all been that douche a few times (maybe just me?). But we know when to stand up and say “NO!” to that douche-bagery.

    But yes i agree that knowledge is knowledge and open for any intelligent person to capitalize. I think just as many “old” people are into online marketing as younger people, I think that online marketing is the first thing a gen Y-er learns after being crow-bared from his mothers breast and then holds up his first shiny new bit of actual knowledge and goes “look at what i can do!”. In fact most people in their 20′s are majoring in psychology or anthropology or maybe international studies and use facebook to post dumb pics but that is the extent of their knowledge. Old People who try to learn know the learning curve and really make an effort to learn, so i think they have a leg up on apathetic youngsters who have a natural tendency for the web but don’t apply it.

  17. Hate Gen Y says

    Generation Y slogans = “go figure”, “my bad”, “gay”, “thats sick” (meaning its good)…an unbelievable load of dross.

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