YouTube Generation This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

March 28, 2009
Custom User Avatar
More by this author
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me” is a cute saying but an obvious miscalculation of the power of words. It's all in the name. Names are used to ­categorize all sorts of things, especially people. The generation name game is yet another attempt to fit people into a mold: those from the Silent Generation are beatniks, Baby Boomers are hippies, and don't ­forget the Generation X slackers. Individuals are ­defined by these labels.

Those currently attending high school will find that they have been typecast into a cohort born between 1991 and 2000. Until recently, they had been called the Post-Echo Generation, as ­people who only faintly remember the Post-Cold War era. However, the media, for some unknown reason (perhaps a cruel joke), has started to refer to this group as the “YouTube Generation.”

To put it mildly, teens have expressed a distaste for their new name. This is understandable since, really, who would want to be associated with a website whose poster child is a fat man gesticulating wildly to Romanian techno? Names conjure an image. With a name like the YouTube Generation, what will these coming-of-age teens be known for? Poor spelling?

William Strauss and Neil Howe are credited with developing generational theory and have written ­several books on the subject, including Millennials Rising, which follows the graduating class of 2000. They argue that teens today are actually recasting the image of youth. These “millennials” hold themselves to higher standards; they are less aggressive, rude, and sexually charged than previous generations. If Strauss and Howe are correct, then it is difficult to see how the name YouTube Generation could be applied to the same group of teenagers.

If someone were to judge a generation's character by the content on YouTube, he would surely weep for the future of humanity. All degrees of crude pervade every pixel, in the videos as well as their comments. The most viewed, top-rated videos are an amalgamation of mind-numbing stupidity. Granted, there are ­exceptions (those four guys dancing on treadmills: sheer genius), but this is a sad minority.

It is difficult to find a positive side to this unfair epithet. However, a new perspective is revealed when examining what YouTube actually represents. It has been said that the Internet is to our generation what television was to the Baby Boomers, but with a significant difference.

While the advent of television spurred cultural ­conformity, the Internet teaches diversity. On the Web, creativity and originality are glorified. No website is a better example of this than YouTube, where anyone and his pet hamster can attain fame. YouTube represents everyone – the guy across the street, a cousin in Tennessee, a pen pal from Bangladesh – coming ­together to utterly humiliate themselves. Social ­theorists call this process “globalization.”

Whatever way you look at it – this somewhat romanticized interpretation, its literal representation, or Strauss and Howe's analysis – it appears that the name YouTube Generation is here to stay. If you find this ­depressing, take heart in the fact that as a member of this group, you are entitled to drown your sorrows in as many hours of pointless video footage as you want.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 13 comments. Post your own now!

Neon_Glow said...
Oct. 17, 2012 at 9:59 pm
We are the Youtube Generation? Youtube can be a probelm in my opinion. Many people can record you making a fool of yourself, and post it without your permission. It makes me feel insecure. Like I'm being recorded.
KatsK This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 11, 2012 at 10:51 am
nice last sentence: "take heart in the fact that you are entiitled to drown your sorrows in as many hours of pointless video footage as you want". Good job, and interesting article.
EnderWiggin said...
Nov. 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm
Youtube, the place where you can travel from a satirical video that supports atheism to a cartoon girl spinning a leek to polka music in three clicks.
crazychick said...
Aug. 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm
You make some good points but I wouldnt call us the "youtube generation" If anything I would say we have unfortunetly become a cultural wasteland
JustTaz said...
Dec. 27, 2010 at 7:18 pm
I really don't think that the utter stupidity on YouTube is what they are referring to by "YouTube Generation." I mean the sites slogan is "Broadcast Yourself." I personally think the reference is to this generations tendency to live a public life.
toxic.monkey said...
Jul. 26, 2010 at 11:46 am
You know what? I am proud to be part of the YouTube generation. There are plenty of examples of witty, original, and/or interesting YouTube channels. Top stars of YT may seem to be stupid, but no more so than the average TV show that everyone enjoys so much. The difference is that on YT you have regular people filming their own creative work, not professional script writers, actors, directors, and camera people. Computers allow us to be creative in a way that no other generation before has had, ... (more »)
Anoma21 said...
Mar. 26, 2010 at 9:40 am
I respect your opinion as I am part of this generation as well, but I disagree with your interpretation of the name. I believe that whoever coined the name was just using YouTube because it was a popular name that people associate with the internet, which is the point they're trying to get at. We're the first generation to see the extreme advancements in the Information Highway, answers and your pen-pal from across the world are all just a click away and, frankly, I'm proud of that. The internet... (more »)
Sam replied...
Mar. 26, 2010 at 5:43 pm
Psst. Reread the second to last paragraph. ;] 
the_Horsegirl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 31, 2010 at 10:45 am
Very good article; I agree completely. I'd rather not be part of a generation known for their ingenuity concerning the compilation of progressively stupider and inane video clips.
This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 20, 2009 at 10:50 am
Great article. I think the name is degrading, but this made me feel a little bit better. When I go on youtube, I usually use it to watch a music video, and I don't see what's wrong with listening to music. This is an excellent article, good job.
~HavenGirl~ said...
Oct. 4, 2009 at 3:03 pm
I agree with you. I too, am a part of the 'YouTube Generation' and I must say I was not happy about it until I read your article. Yes, I still hope they change the name, but you made me feel better about being part of a name that doesn't represent people as individuals, by saying that YouTube brings people around the world together, and that YouTube represents everyone. Maybe its not such a bad thing to be apart of something that everyone else can be a part of too?
P.S... (more »)
EnderWiggin replied...
Nov. 3, 2011 at 2:59 pm
The band is called OK GO.
Kerri said...
Sept. 19, 2009 at 10:37 pm
Haha. I'm not particularly fond of the name "YouTube Generation", myself, even though I am a part of it. I hope- desperately -that somehow this name will drop.
But the article itself was amazing. It was very funny. and did a great job portraying both sides of the story. :)
Site Feedback