In between Gen X and Gen Y—which side do I choose?

Maryam Sanati chronicled the difference between Gen X and Gen Y groups and personal branding in the March 2012 edition of The Walrus. She argued that members of Gen Y have grown up with the self-confidence needed to make that leap into personal branding easy, so easy that they’re capable of branding themselves on almost nothing at all. The rise of the twitterati. And they’re not only building empires out of castles in the sky, they’re demanding attention instead of waiting for someone to discover their genius.

Twitterati Necklace

Photo source: Couch Objects

For Gen X it’s been a waiting game—one that’s lead to many people deciding, ‘ah fuck it. It’s too late for me.’

“Unfortunately, [Gen X-ers] were conditioned to our very core to wait our turn — for a tap on the shoulder that meant we could join the boomers in the traditional job market. Waiting had become a way of life; fearing unknown consequences, we practically invented putting things off.”–Maryam Sanati, “Brand Me”

While “brimming with self-esteem, thanks to their poor, well-intentioned parents” Gen Y believe their thoughts and opinions matter so much that they’re willing to shove it down anyone’s throat, or rather, at least publicly brag about anything pertaining to their live and, in the process, create an ideal that others wish to aspire to.

“[Nolan Bryant] started with a baseline the teenagers of my era lacked. As well as the digital tools, he possessed an uncannily solid sense of himself. Like all socialites on the ascent, confidence became his key. His generation lives out life in public; my generation chose to lurk in the shadows, scared shitless about what others thought of us.”–Maryam Sanati, “Brand Me”

Sanati finds this quality in Gen Y “admirable”, while admitting that her generation still scoffs at the “born this way” attitude of my generation.

The funny thing is, I sympathize with her.

Born in 1985, I’m on the edge of Gen X and Gen Y. I grew up knowing both sides of the equation—a world before the Internet and a world after. My first cellphone was a piece of shit Nokia that I lost part way through my junior year in high school. I also grew up with a sister nearly a decade older than me, who was definitely part of the Gen X team. Whether or not she knows it, she had an influence on the way I grew up. Perhaps if we had been closer in age, we’d be more Gen Y than Gen X.

At the same time, I built my first personal site when I was fifteen years old. I grew up influenced by webcam girls who encouraged the same self-assured style obsession that today’s personal brand divas command. Their rise to internet celebrity status was the avant garde movement of the reality TV star. I strove to join that group in small ways—I didn’t have a live cam on my site, but I did post silly webcam stills of myself, often just in front of the computer, sometimes with wet hair even.

But I still found myself uneasy because part of me was ashamed of how much I was exposing myself. I didn’t want people to judge me, but I was putting myself out there to be judged. As my old blog began to gain notice, I shut it down. I couldn’t handle the attention any longer and felt like the sincerity of my vapid posts were lost the instant that I hit the publish button. Yet, I still continue to plod on as younger, less-conscious counterparts in my generation gain power because they don’t share that same self-conscious vein. I used to think it was my Catholic guilt, but maybe it’s just because I don’t fully belong in that Gen Y camp.

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