Generation Y: Our Fiction-Culture

Introduction – this is the first in a series of posts on this subject

I see literature as a mirror held up to society, reflecting back our continually shifting culture. The themes explored within books and films, reveal what’s happening in society – what we’re currently fascinated by, our fears and concerns, and what we suspect our future holds. Literature, however, is not passive; it does not simply reflect change, it can also affect it, sometimes altering our culture.

what is fiction culture

Fiction-Culture is an extension of this idea that literature reflects change and has the potential to affect it. It’s an umbrella term I like to use to describe how fiction – and our relationship with it – can come to define our culture. It affects when, where and how, we read books or watch films. You left your e-reader in your desk at work, and the paper copy of the book you’re longing to dive back into, currently resides on your bedside table. Do you forgo reading on the commute home? Of course not.

You’ve probably already taken out your tablet or smart phone – situations like this, are why Kindle has an app for mobile reading!

Bit of an insomniac? Looking for a film to watch in the early hours, but there’s nothing good about to start on your movie channels at the odd time of 3.15am?

Netflix and Amazon Instant Video are always on – films and TV shows available exactly when you want them!

Where entertainment is concerned, this is the age of “on demand.” We’re Generation Y should I wait for the next book in the series I’m reading to be delivered, when I could opt to one-click download it?

Is anyone else slightly addicted to one-click?

“We Gen” wants it now. “Me Gen” also wants everyone to know what we think about it. From the point that we’re looking forward to the latest hit-to-be TV show airing, we’re posting anticipatory comments, sharing our enthusiasm. Some of us will even Tweet about an episode, while it’s airing – we do tend to like a collective experience.

tweeting while watching bt

Then, once we’ve decided a new show is a hit, we’ll show our approval by “liking” it on Facebook, or writing about in our personal blogs. The Millennials are not a “keep your thoughts to yourself” generation.

Us Millennials/Gen Y-ers, have an unprecedented relationship with literature. There are so many ways available to us, to express and share our views. Not only do we want to be heard, but we want our opinions to affect changes. We start online petitions or Twitter campaigns when our favourite show are cancelled.

It’s both exciting and daunting to think what the future will hold with Gen Y as the next generation of leaders. But let’s not move too quickly – us Millennials like to take a few deters on the journey to our goals. Don’t worry, we’ll get there!

The Changes We’ve Seen – part 1

updated version of gen y

There is a sketchily defined period, generally accepted as between 1982 and 2004, which marks my generation. If you too, were born during this period, it is likely that you will have heard us referred to as “Generation Y”, or one of the many variations of this label.

What (or more accurately, who,) is Generation Y?

The short answer is pretty much the above – if you’re aged roughly between teens and early 30s, you are Generation Y.

Generation:Birth Dates:Age Range:
"The Generation of 1914."
"The Lost Generation."
1883-1900115 (-132) yrs.
"G.I. Generation." "The Greatest Generation."1901-192491-114 yrs.
"The Silent Generation."
"The Lucky Few." "The Younger Generation."
1925-194273-90 yrs.
"The Baby Boomers."1946- (early)1960's. Abt. 53-69 yrs.
"GenerationX." "GenX." "The MTV Generation."(early) 1960s- (abt.)1981Abt. 34-52 yrs.
"Generation Y." "Gen Y."
"The Millennial Generation." "The Millennials." "The Ad Gen." "The Net Generation." "iGen." "Gen Next." "Generation We." "Generation Me." "Global Generation." "Echo Boomers." "Generation 9/11."
(abt.) 1982- (abt.)2004Abt. 11-33 yrs.
"Generation Z." "The Post-Millennials." "The Homeland Generation." "Digital Natives." "Post Gen." "Gen Tech." "The Pluralist Generation." "The Pluralists." "The 2Ks." "The Conflict Generation." & (as with Gen Y:) "iGeneration."(abt.) 2005-20150-10 yrs

The majority of the information in this table can be found on Wikipedia UK

Getting back to my definition…

There’s a certain amount of cross-over and I have seen definitions which place Generation Y back as far as 1975. There’s no definitive answer to when Gen Y begins and ends. Different cultures may point to various significant social and political changes, as well as major economic influences, which have shaped their generations – and so their definition of the time periods that mark the generations.

 im talking about gen y

If you’re 12 or 13, it’s likely that you’ll identify more strongly with the (even more fluidly defined) generation set to precede ours: Gen Z. That’s a subject for a different post!

If, like me, you’re closer to the other end of the Gen Y spectrum, you might identify with certain aspects of the culture associated with our generational cohorts: Generation X. They are the post-WW1 Baby Boomer Generation, born between the early sixties and the early 80s.

The stereotype about Gen X holds that they are likely to be well-educated, family-orientated, happy and active. Whilst being considered more open to embracing diversity, they are not the political activists their parents (the Baby Boomers) were. Gen X grew up during many cultural changes, including the emergence of music videos and various music genres – hence the alternative name suggested: “MTV Generation.”


Who named our generation and what is Gen Y associated with?

William Strauss and Neil Howe wrote a book titled: Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. The term “Generation Y,” appeared first in 1983, in Ad Age, to describe the children of that time. Generation Y is also named (by Newsweek) as the generation aged between 10 and 20 yrs, on 11th September 2001. This is why they referred to us as the “9/11 Gen”. If you’re too young to have a vivid memory connected to the events of that day, you’re definitely a Gen Z rather than a Gen Y.

There are plenty of theories surrounding how the world we grew up in has influenced us, as well as stereotypes about our personalities. Gen Y are thought to be civic-minded with a strong sense of community, both locally and globally. We’re also stereotyped as: confident, upbeat, tolerant and liberal, as well as having a sense of entitlement and some narcissistic tendencies – hence the suggested name: “Me” Gen.

One word: “selfie.”

Perhaps the most significant point to make about Millennials, is that we are said to be the future – the next generation of leaders. The Next Great Generation. And everyone is waiting to see what the future holds with us at the helm.

For a different take on this, check out the video below:


It’s a little bit too much saccharine for my taste and, consequently, has generated a mild backlash from non-Gen Y-ers on YouTube. However, there’s good intention behind it, and the message that you’re never too young to try to “change the world,” is certainly an interesting counter point to the accusation that we’re all self-obsessed, selfie-taking narcissists!

Is this an example of Gen Y self-confidence working positively in society? It takes a certain degree of shall we say, confidence and self-belief, to claim that, at age 12, not yet having discovered an altruistic and meaningful purpose in life resulted in something of an “existential crisis.” This, perhaps, goes a bit of a way towards affirming the “me-centred” stereotype surrounding Gen Y – and I’m not entirely sure that Rotman makes the point that she intended. That said, as someone who has spent time doing voluntary work with children, I’m not about to criticise anyone promoting the message that young people should aim for a better future, for themselves or others!  

Is your Generational label accurate?

Have your say in the comments section!

No label designed to generalize the traits of a demographic is ever going to entirely encapsulate the mindset, values, likes and dislikes of that entire generation. We’re individuals. In fact, there’s an argument to be made for our expressive individuality and self-awareness, as a defining aspect of our generation. 

They may be sweeping generalizations, but generational labels make some interesting observations about the changes we’ve witnessed, socially, technologically, and in terms of our “fiction-culture.”

But before we discuss those changes…

Why do these labels exist?

Of course, generational labels are of academic, sociological and political interest, but that’s not why we’re so aware of them. Cynically speaking, the reason so much attention is paid to analysing which age groups belong to which generation, and identifying attributes associated with those groups, is this: labels are extremely useful in advertising.

influential millennials

Knowing about the generations – what we like, dislike, value, identify with and, crucially, what grabs our attention – is largely about getting to know a marketing demographic. Know your target demographic and you have a wealth of solutions when it comes to marketing a product to that group of potential consumers – or in generating buzz around a new idea.

Generational labels are relevant to politics, too…

For instance, if I were a politician in the run-up to an election, aiming to garner more votes from the over 70s age group, would I be likely to Tweet about my policies?

No, probably not.

Now, my nan falls into that demographic – and, in defiance of the stereotype that her generation are not tech-savvy, she does have a computer and regularly uses the internet.

Does she have a Twitter account? No.

How did politicians approach my nan and her contemporaries in the run-up to the recent election? In person, of course – at community centres and local groups, like the Women’s Institute.

Returning to Generation Y…

On the other hand, an example of the thinking behind how to target demographics by understanding their generation, can be found in the pre-election choice of former labour leader, Ed Miliband. Miliband attempted to appeal to the youth vote by reaching out online. He took part in a YouTube interview: The Trews, with vibrant and verbose, Essex-born, comedian and actor, Russell Brand.


Brand, incidentally, was born in 1975. Technically, that makes him a member of Generation X – but he’s on the cusp of Y Gen, and we’re claiming him! (I have a suspicion that’s how he’d want it.)

See yourself as more of a Gen X-er, Russell?

If so, please let me know and I’ll stand corrected.

It’s a fascinating interview for a number of reason – but I’ll leave you to take a look for yourselves. The interview covers a wide range of subjects, from the mood of cynicism about the potential for change and the general disillusionment of “our” generation, in regards to politics, to the issue of media monopolies and, large corporations avoiding paying tax. Amazon gets a mention!

Getting back to advertising…

Why are Gen Y such an important consumer group to target? It’s partly because we make up the largest consumer group to have a disposable income. The majority of our number are now somewhere along the road to graduating college, establishing a career, or even buying/renting a home – which we will fill with products!

We’re not of the corporation-rejecting mind-set of Gen X; we’re more minded towards becoming consumers with a conscience. We are also one of the largest populations since the “baby boomers.” Consequently, we make up one of the largest consumer groups. 

However, that’s not the only reason marketing experts are so keen to understand us. The fact is, we’re extremely influential.

The source of our power?

social media

Our generation make up the largest group to use social media. Gen Y are a virtual community of bloggers, Tweeters, forum-frequenters and Facebookers, all brimming with views and information on products. In short, make an impression on us and we’ll do a great job of raising brand awareness and marketing the products we love. 

Here’s a fantastic video which explores the differences between Gen X and Gen Y, generational conflicts and how us “Millennials” (or Gen Y-ers,) are viewed in the context of marketing and advertising. In short, it’s a theory of generational change as social “evolution.” Don’t be fooled by the title of the video. Hess is a Gen X-er who actually has something positive to say about us Gen Ys!

Generation Y, the Millenials, has come of age. We’ve seen many changes along the way and this is just the first post in a series I have planned. I intend to explore those changes, as well as the books, TV series and films that define our generation and continue to shape our fiction-culture.

Coming soon: The 30 Changes that shaped Gen Y and our Fiction-Culture.

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