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Creativity: The Spirit of Our Generation
“If you took a thousand children from Generation X and fed them pounds of sugar, passed out boxes of crayons and asked them to create something, they wouldn’t hold a match to the work of this generation. They are here, now, in our faces. They are the future, changing the world. They shouldn’t be named Gen Y; they should be Gen C, for the ‘Creative Generation’” (Pew Internet American Life Project 9). While there may be several names for the emerging generation making up over 26% of the population, those currently ranging from ages 16 to 30, the ability to uniquely solve problems and create work identifies Generation Y as the creative generation, differing from their predecessors. Over the past few decades, Generation Y substituted coloring books and crayons for social media platforms, html codes, mp3 documents, and web-based designs. Their methods of construction may have progressed over time, but Gen Y illuminates the spirit of their generation through creative means. Creativity thrives in the lives of the millennial generation, influencing the world of pop culture; the creativity harnessed by those of Generation Y has planted ideas into the world that have positively influenced changes in the music industry, social media world, and fashion industry.
Despite the fact that researchers have no distinct way to measure who is included in Generation Y, most agree that Gen Y encompasses those born between the 1980s through early 2000. Generation Y is most commonly known as the generation after Generation X, or the Baby Boomers, those born between the 1960s and early 1980s; therefore receiving the name “Echo Boomers” as Generation Y echoes Generation X. Additionally, Gen Y is known as Generation Next, The Millennials, and the Net Generation. Creativity is the central trait of Generation Y, as it defines every aspect of their lives, including pop-culture. Generation Y is not only creative artistically, but are creatively capable of solving problems, making music, and interacting socially. Michael Howard, a developmental psychologist, sociologist, and former professor at the University of Iowa, believes the millennial generation can be “defined” as creative. Howard explained, “Creativity is the ability to come up with new ideas, produce original thought constructions and apply it to everyday life. Creativity isn’t just the ability to paint a portrait or sing a song, but about representing new, unique ideas in the world. Gen Y has an incredible outlook on life, using creativity in every means necessary. They’re creative in the way they think, act, and shape the world” (Howard). In 2009, Howard conducted a case study at the University of Iowa, testing college students.
Howard passed out a “Creativity Exam” sponsored by the American Psychological Association, designed to measuring one’s creativity. While such students believed they expressed creativity, the exact definition of creativity sparked controversy. “Some students believed in the stereotype: that creativity is only an artistic ability. However, a large majority of those tested explained creativity to be beyond that; creativity to Gen Y is an ability to discover new ideas, explore originality, and understand the world in a way which allows for the freedom of thought” (Howard). Through his study, Dr. Howard was able to research Generation Y and their view on creativity, discovering how creativity shapes their lives and how it will shape the future. Like Dr. Howard and his students, the American Psychological Association believes there are different views on creativity. In the APA Monitor article “What exactly is creativity? Psychologists continue their quest to better understand creativity”, staff member Karen Kersting asserts that there are different types of creativity: there’s “little-c creativity, which is often used as an indicator of mental health, includes everyday problem-solving and the ability to adapt to change. Big-C creativity, on the other hand, is far more rare. It occurs when a person solves a problem or creates an object that has a major impact on how other people think, feel and live their lives” (Kersting). Though the exact meaning of creativity differs from person to person and from place to place, creativity oozes from the lives of the millennial generation. From basic artistic expression to the discovery and development of new ideas, Generation Y has taken over the world of pop-culture, harnessing their creativity to create music, fashion, and media which rules a majority of the world.
In 2010, over 500 million people across the world joined together in one place, at the same time. Each month, each of the 500 million people spent over 700 billion minutes together, creating not only the world’s largest social networking site, but the fastest growing, most visited website of all time, known as Facebook. Over the past decade, Facebook has become a social media and networking powerhouse, gaining over 153% in “friends”, or members, each year. Born in February of 2004, “Thefacebook.com” billed as "an online directory that connects people through social networks at colleges” (Grossman). This year, Facebook — now minus the the — added its 550 millionth member. In 2004, the future number one site in the world was developed by 19 year old Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg, member of the Millennial Generation. Zuckerberg started the web service out of his college dorm, sparking an era known as “the Facebook age”. In 2010, Time Magazine acknowledged Mark Zuckerberg as Person of The Year:
He is the same age as Queen Elizabeth when she was Person of the Year, for 1952. But unlike the Queen, he did not inherit an empire; he created one... Person of the Year is not and never has been an honor. It is recognition of the power of individuals to shape our world. For connecting more than half a billion people and mapping the social relations among them (something that has never been done before); for creating a new system of exchanging information that has become both indispensable and sometimes a little scary; and finally, for changing how we all live our lives in ways that are innovative and even optimistic, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg is TIME's 2010 Person of the Year (Grossman).
Earning the award of Person of the Year showcases Zuckerberg’s impact on the world and how one idea influenced millions of people. In less than seven years, Zuckerberg created a website of such tenacity that if it were a country, it would be the third largest, behind only China and India. Zuckerberg’s creation represents the creation of millennials across the world; at age 19, Zuckerberg’s simple idea launched into a force prominent across the globe. The creativity of Zuckerberg’s site determines it from thousands of others—Zuckerberg’s original, unique idea transformed pop-culture, inducting America and the entire globe into the age of social media and networking. If it hadn’t been for Zuckerberg’s idea, perhaps over seven million people world-wide would not be connected, nor would social-networking encompass lives. While the website arouses its own attention, Zuckerberg’s creative idea does not stop at the site— in 2010, Mark Zuckerberg’s story was painted across the wide screen, taking Facebook live to movie theaters. The Social Network told the story of Facebook’s beginning, earning four Golden Globe awards, including those for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Co-founders of Facebook explain that not only did The Social Network represent their story, but it told the story of their generation: The movie was the first big-time award-caliber movie about GenY types, and is brought alive on-screen mostly by GenY actors. There will be many who'll get that this film represents not just a kind of generational self-portraiture, but also forecasts a cultural sea-change in Hollywood. It's a movie that says “the game belongs to us now” (“Social Network" Movie).
Like Facebook, Generation Y is responsible for many of the popular social-media sites used worldwide. Myspace, the often forgotten “cousin” of Facebook, who introduced young people to the world of social-networking, was co-founded by college student and Echo-Boomer Tom Anderson, the automatic first friend of each new user. In 2007, MySpace trafficked over 230,000 new users daily, surpassing Google. In less than three years from its creation, MySpace became the most visited site on the internet. Throughout the years, MySpace over took the social media world and pop-culture, making appearances in comedy sketches, on t-shirts, and even on the radio. Comedy Central star Lisa Lampanelli joked that her fellow comedian was “so unlikable, that on MySpace, Tom won’t even be his friend.” Later on in the year, t-shirts exploded with sayings such as “Tom is not my friend” or “I have more friends than Tom”, showcasing MySpace’s overwhelming presence in the lives of Americans. Then popular pop band Gym Class Heroes included MySpace in their single, writing “My man Tom introduced us, but I was too shy to say hi”, also alluding to the presence of MySpace. While MySpace has quickly been replaced as the top ranked social media site and number one most visited website, MySpace’s creation lead to the exploding surge of social media sites targeting to teens and young adults, otherwise known as Generation Y. MySpace’s creation is attributed to Tom Anderson, though he was not the only creator. However, Tom’s appearance on the site made it clear that his idea was one of the most notorious waves to hit the millennial generation. Without the invention of MySpace, which completely changed the lives of millennials, perhaps the social media craze now encompassing the world would not be so prominent. The creativity of Mark Zuckerburg—coming up with a new idea to connect and change over a twelfth of the population—and Tom Anderson—a stepping stone in the path to ultimate social media— changed not only an entire generation, but the entire world of pop culture; without their additions to society, the world would not be the same. While creating and designing online networks exemplifies ingenious creativity of Generation Y, classic artistic ability and talent also showcase the creativity of the millennial generation.
By using the world as a platform, Generation Y has soared through the music industry, sharing their creativity and talent with the world. By using media as the first stage, Generation Y creatively launches their own careers in music, changing the industry to fit the wants of their generation. In the Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, Damian Kulash Jr., lead singer of popular pop band “OK Go” writes, “Music is becoming more of an experience and less of an object. Without records as a way to measure and contain music’s value, last century’s rules are out the window” (Get Over it 14), showing the adaptation of the music industry over time. From record players to mp3 player and iPods, music in all forms—creators, creation, mode, etc.—transformed for Generation Y. For the past several decades up until the past ten years, the record industry defined music as the recording of music (14). However, in light of Generation Y, the definition of music and musical success has changed. Instead of buying CDs and attending concerts, Generation Y pays for music digitally: through the internet, iTunes, and online web recordings of concerts. The impact of MySpace and Facebook are undeniable; through each page, millions of people access millions of music pages—both a forefront for discovery and expansion. In 2008, then 17 year old Christofer Drew Ingle launched a MySpace music page for his solo act, “NeverShoutNever”. Through the audience of millions of MySpace users, Ingle found fame—instantly, Ingle became a pop sensation. Due to his presence on MySpace, Ingle developed a number one hit, awarded most plays of all time on the MySpace Music App. Ingle’s success continued as he performed on MTV’s TRL, performing his online hit “BigCityDreams”. Ingle attributes his success to MySpace, reminding reporters that his fame all started with a guitar and a webpage; Ingle’s current success continues with a No. 14 debut of “Harmony” last august and two other top 10 singles. Like Christofer Drew Ingle, hundreds of GenYs found their pathway to success through social media pages. While the creativity of musical talent is eminent, artists like Ingle show their creativity with how they reach audiences; by transforming the internet into a stage, music artists of the millennial generation emerge with number one hits and instant celebrity status.
WordBoner, an online t-shirt company which sprouted from a simple t-shirt sale on a blog, became a million dollar company in only a few short years. WordBoner provides t-shirts related to pop culture and the millennial generation for the millennial generation; in order to purchase a t-shirt, you must be a member of an age-specific blog, restricting customers to members of Gen Y. The million dollar company focuses on sayings that teenagers and young adults would understand, highlighting current trends. By designing t-shirts for Gen Y by Gen Y, WordBoner quickly sold over two million t-shirts, creating a new trend in the fashion industry. Peter Sebastian Kay, founder of WordBoner, describes his idea for the company as a “burst of inspiration and creativity” (Rely on Words 2). The idea spurred from a “much needed desire” (Rely on Words 3) for t-shirts with flare, creativity, and uniqueness to represent his generation; Kay writes how he noticed a wide gap in fashion and the needs of young people in America, so one shirt idea, coined “Gen Y”, launched the site. The t-shirt states “Gen Y will never die” on the front, and “We will change the world” on the back. Kay’s initial t-shirt sold out within a week, with over two thousand shirt shipped across the country (Rely on Words 7). While the process of making t-shirts is an art, most people support Kay for his original idea. In 2010, Kay was awarded the “Most Creative/Productive Use of Internet Blog” award in The Bloggies, a popular internet award show. Supporters explain that Kay’s shirts do not just make assertions, but represent an entire generation with each quote and saying, and the creativity represented through the process. WordBoner is only one small business that skyrocketed into instant success, but the entire generation of millennials impacts the world of fashion. Demographic Keynote Speaker Kenneth Gronbach explains how the millennial generation shapes the industry:
Tiny Generation X (born 1965 to 1984) has dominated the peak fashion/clothing buying years of twenty-five to thirty-five years old. Now fashion is about to be influenced by Generation Y (born 1985 to 2004). It is the biggest most consuming generation in the history of the United States and it has the power to support radical and very profitable changes in style (KGC Direct).
Because of the creativity of Generation Y, pop-culture has shifted into new phases in social media, music, and fashion—some of the most prominent forces shaping pop-culture and the lives of millions. Every day, Americans are exposed to social media, music, and fashion—almost thousands of times a day—through every day activities. The television, the internet, the radio, books—everything has been impacted by Gen Y. Without the discoveries, creations, and efforts of Gen Y, America, and most of the world, would not be the same; Gen Y’s social media platforms, music stars, and even clothing, connect over a million people daily. Without the creativity encouraged with such icons as Mark Zuckerberg, Tom Anderson, or Christofer Drake Ingle, our culture would not be so. Although the impact that Generation Y has had on society is obvious, the creativity necessary for such an impact diminishes over time. Due to the nature of public schooling, creativity is not harnessed, or encouraged, in schools; rather, the school system hinders creativity, forcing students to leave behind divergent thinking for rational, empirical proof. The “Big C” creativity cannot exist without the “Little C” creativity; in order to have the skills necessary to make such an impact on the world, people must possess the ability to solve problems and adapt to change, a skill that can be learned through education. However, by obstructing and discouraging creativity, schools limit the possibility for improvement and success in our society. In the unpublished survey “Gen Y on creativity and schooling” at Bloomington High School, 97% of students reported that they believed they expressed creativity, while 93% reported that Generation Y is more creative than previous generations, but schools do not teach or encourage creativity (see appendix D). In addition, the 93% believed that schools should harness creativity, as it will help push America into the future. Though students believe creativity should be included in schools, as it is both the spirit and defining trait of their generation, and the answer to many problems in America, not simply a tool for pop-culture, school systems struggle to find a way to incorporate creativity with academics.
While the importance of creativity in schools and education is overwhelmingly obvious, some people believe that creativity is not the defining trait of Generation Y, and there are more important issued to be addressed than incorporating creativity is education. However, the importance of creativity is emphasized by author Daniel Pink is the work A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. Pink explains that “the future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers—these people... will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys” (Pink 1). Pink asserts that those who obtain the “Little C” creativity will be those who help progress society, and those who will receive the most benefits. Every person who has lead society down a successful path—Mark Zuckerberg, Christofer Drake Ingle, etc., possessed the abilities of “Little C” creativity. Without the right-sided mind set, these people would not have been capable of such influential creativity and success; without “Little C” creativity, we will no longer be able to compete in the world. Pink also explains that our world is shifting to a “Conceptual Age” (61); the former reliance on “L-Directed Thinking”, or the form of thinking and an attitude to life that is characterized by the left hemisphere of the brain—sequential, literal, textual, and analytic—only provides left-brained results (26). In order to progress and maintain stability in the world, humans need to shift to “R-Directed Thinking”, or the right-brain oriented, “Little C” creativity. This type of thinking is simultaneous metaphorical, aesthetic, contextual, and synthetic. While Pink addresses that both types of thinking are necessary for fulfilling lives and just societies, he stresses that society tends to tilt towards left brained thinking, though they are no longer sufficient. In order to remain a part of the world overrun by abundance, competing superpowers, and global problems, people must make the shift to right-brained thinking, centered in “Little C” creativity. Those that have harnessed the type, Generation Y, are already pushing forward into the future; those who haven’t, or won’t, will be stuck in the past, lost in the success of those who harnessed creativity of the Conceptual Age.
While there are several different ideas on what defines a generation and not everyone will agree, perhaps the most important characteristic of a generation is the way it thinks, and the way it propels into the future. There is not denying the impact Generation Y has had on society; through the platforms of social media, fashion, and music, Generation Y positively impacted the world, connecting over a million people and changing entire industries. Without the impact of influential Gen Ys, the world would not be the same. However, more importantly than Gen Y’s contribution is their style of thinking; the “Little C” creativity, the ability to see problems and adapt and change them defines the entire generation: a group of people who possess the skills that will push society into the next era. Not only does Generation Y thrive on creative means, but we possess the skills to make such influential changes to society; only through the possession of right-brained thinking and creativity Gen Y is able to make changes to society. The overarching awareness of issues and the “little C” creativity, along with the talent, desire, and projection of their creative ideas portrays the spirit of Generation Y. Daniel Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future, writes, “L-Directed Thinking used to be the driver and R-Directing Thinking in the passenger seat. Now, R-Directed Thinking is suddenly grabbing the wheel, stepping on the gas, and determining how we’ll get there” (27). If creativity and “R-Directed Thinking” are driving the car, Generation Y is building the car, sending society into a new era of change.