Reflecting on the College Generation Gap

Ah, how things have changed.

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Photo by Chaz Delgado

Remember when you were younger and you thought your 18-22 year-old camp counselors were accomplished adults? A few years later when you graduated from a camper into a counselor, you realized being a counselor was probably your biggest life accomplishment thus far, and you encountered an internal conflict. Either your counselors were really good at hiding how much of a mess they were (as you currently are), or you were genuinely a failure for not being able to fill their supposedly accomplished, wise, and purposeful shoes.

In retrospect, it’s comical to look back on what kind of life we imagined for ourselves as children, recalling the timelines to which we confined our futures before our lives had even begun. We laugh at our what-once-seemed-to-be-standard chronological expectations as they begin to unravel into our futures, leaving most expectations unfulfilled. A loyal significant other by age 20? Nope. A beautiful apartment with real utensils? Nada. The ability to cook anything without burning the house down? …

But who were our little prepubescent selves to know that life would get in the way of life, like a hangover on the morning of an exam? At least that’s what we tell ourselves to avoid coming to terms with the fact that seven year-old me would be wildly disappointed that 22 year-old me has not even the slightest clue of what to do with my life, not to mention that I don’t plan on pursuing a career as a ballerina, astronaut, or a professional soccer player.

To quote every grandchild responding to their great grandparent’s “I came to America with nothing but the clothes on my back, and a dream in my pocket, and look at me now” motivational speech, times have changed.

via GIPHY

Differences between generation gaps are no longer just kids trying to explain to their moms how to use a computer, or reminding their racist grandparents that it’s 2017 and discrimination is no longer socially acceptable or condoned. *Monitors media consumption, installs parental controls through service provider to block all things Trump as a preventative measure to keep them from thinking they’re back in the 60’s.*

Generations are defined by the type of world and environment its partakers have grown up in. That being said, the technological age we’ve found ourselves in has our world changing as rapidly as the mind of a sorority girl deciding whom to take to date night. Every time Apple announces a new, updated version of whatever product you literally JUST bought, it figuratively adds another divide between you and your parents, grandparents, and every other generation.

The cut off for Gen Y is 1995, and Gen Z-ers are those born after 1995. With these two breeds converged into one student body, the generation gap between seniors and freshmen is as prevalent as the people stealthily hooking up in the corner of DJ’s. How do I know this? Those of us who are old enough to recall 9/11 from memory as opposed to a textbook make up the margins of Gen Y. We are able to experience what was the past, when we were freshmen and sophomores, and what will be the future, as juniors and seniors, and—god help us—professionals.

Old enough to be aware, Gen Y saw shit starting to get weird circa 2006-2009. Our notions about coming of age, and high school/college were based on Friday Night Lights, Degrassi, One Tree Hill, The OC, Mean Girls, American Pie, etc. But then Glee and High School Musical came along, and every aspect we came to understand about our futures involved using song numbers to express personal obstacles and internal conflicts.

But then social media came along, and with it, a special thing called narcissism.

In the midst of our pilgrimages through puberty, publicizing our acne-ridden face and metallic mouth sounds seemed like a good idea. Gen Y tried to figure out social media and how to present the best versions of ourselves, while simultaneously trying to work through the most awkward stage of our lives. It was a confusingly emotional time for us all.

Gen Z had it all figured out for them when the time came to enter into their man/womanhood by creating Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. They adapted their lives to it. Their lives pretty much are social media, holding to the idea that publicizing everything is necessary, because how else are people supposed to know that you went on vacation, got asked to prom, got into college, took a shit? Everyone needs to know these things at all times.

But with the need to broadcast how great life is and document every experience to show your ex you’re better off without him share with the world, the dynamic of the college experience has completely transformed. We constantly see people “doin’ it for the Insta,” as opposed to just doing whatever “it” is because they genuinely want to do it. The college years that Gen Y fondly look back on will greatly differ from those of Gen X. Sure, the “I’m Shmacked” videos helped us get through high school by showing us there was a light at the end of the tunnel. But they attracted almost too much attention. The year Syracuse became the Number 1 Party School is like the B.C. and A.D. of history.

Before, Mayfest and Juice Jam were fun events of day drinking without DPS aggressively ruining everything. Game days filled Castle Court corner-to-corner with orange, and frats weren’t put on social probation more often than you have mental breakdowns per week.

In my final months of senior year, I’ve had time to Facebook stalk myself look back on my glory years. Not only are the expectations I had for myself at this time totally unfulfilled, but they’re also wildly outdated, and quite frankly too embarrassing to share with my fan base (hi, mom). I remember looking up to seniors as a little, inexperienced freshman, thinking, “Wow, their lives are so great. They have Chuck’s, jobs when they graduate, apartments in Murray Hill, boys whose personalities have caught up with their age, and probably everything they’ve ever wanted in the entire world.” Well, Chuck’s is closing, we’re pretty much all unemployed, barely able to afford a cardboard box in Murray Hill, and I’m still waiting on those personalities.

Hannah Fruchtman
About Hannah Fruchtman (30 Articles)
Hannah Fruchtman is a Communication and Rhetorical Studies major in VPA. Her favorite things to do are dance on elevated surfaces and eat really good pizza, but not at the same time. Hannah is patiently waiting for her awkward stage to end, but in the meanwhile she enjoys writing, attempting to look trendy, and being sarcastic. She wants to apologize in advance to anybody who found her humor offensive, because it is.
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