Breeding Greed: The Materialistic GenY

Posted on November 8, 2011 in Specials

By Naini Singh:

To all those reading this piece, be appeased by a disclaimer I am ready to issue- not every single individual who is part of the deemed and damned Generation Y fits into the emerging stereotype I am about to reinforce right now. There are many young adults who earn their own bread through college and save as much as they can when they start working. These kids are smart, motivated and know that the only one watching their back is themselves only. They put in the long hours. They don’t depend on anyone but themselves and have a strong work ethic. They may have rich parents, or they may have not very rich parents. They’re not being mentioned here, because more than serving as a role model, they exist in small numbers today.

I will, however, scrutinize the larger population that is financially unaccountable and materialistically insatiable. This large group is defined not by a particular social strata or ethnic group or city. It extends across states and languages, and is marked by a derisive need to assign self-esteem and respect according to their material possessions, determined by their standing in their social circles. The meaning and importance of the concept of ‘popularity’ has changed since the early 2000s. It became less about what kind of friends you have, and more about the number of acquaintances who could work as quasi-pals; less about personality, more about purchasing parity. Consumerism has found itself a permanent niche in the 18-25 group, where style takes priority over social compatibility, because what’s the point of having good skills if you don’t have a way of putting them on your back? There’s a reason why companies with agendas to push sales target this age group- not just because they can easily be swayed through pop culture and gimmicks, but because a large number of households making long-term investments in property or purchases in technology and facilities do so only after consulting with their children. The average teenager is well informed and well equipped to make decisions that often leave their parents confused. Parents pressed for time or lost in a sea of many choices that they’re not used to picking from leave those decisions to their children, apportioning them with immediate authority, often tilting the power balance in their favor.

This entire trend of ‘materialism’ manifests as a result of the lack in passing on of true money values from parents to their children. In a time when many households have both parents working and portions of family time that shrink with every passing month, a large communication gap and lesser accountability for expenditure ensure that young adults find the notion and need for personal savings redundant. With parents finding lesser incentive to give advice, their children find lesser reason to listen to whatever fiscal wisdom that ever comes their way. For one, while there is an apparent development in the last decade in the often frivolous outlook of the youth, what with the superficiality and the ridiculous sensitivity to ‘fitting in’, I am compelled to also argue that most of this emerges from the exaggerated label by a national and international social media that feeds itself in this cycle- creating the perception of a generation of mindless drones who only want to buy-buy-buy, and then serving the interests of this group. Not knowing better, a young generation imbibes what it sees everywhere- swallowing this image of what they are supposed to be like without any qualms. And this young generation’s only fault? Being impressionable.