60 Minutes “Echo Boomer” story comes up short

As we were watching 60 Minutes last night, Alicia asked me, “Are they talking about Pomos?” Pomos, for the uneducated here, is short for Postmoderns, people who define a new cultural era in the west. The program examined what demographers are calling “Echo Boomers,” people born between 1982 and 1995. They’re also called Generation‑Y and millenials — people born of baby boomers that “echo” the generation. They make up about one-third of the population in the U.S. and account for $170 billion in commerce, according to the program.

Echo boomers are a reflection of the sweeping changes in American life over the past 20 years. They are the first to grow up with computers at home, in a 500-channel TV universe. They are multi-taskers with cell phones, music downloads, and Instant Messaging on the Internet. They are totally plugged-in citizens of a worldwide community.
What we have here is a modernist institution — CBS — quoting modernist sources — scientists and other experts — presenting a postmodern cultural phenomenon in modernist terms. Certainly there is truth to what 60 Minutes concludes about this demographic group — that they are driven by instant gratification, that they want and expect to be heroes, that they are naïve in a dog-eat-dog business environment, that they are more conservative than their boomer parents, that they have difficulty with long-term concepts, that “buzz” is important to them, that they don’t get much from traditional media sources, and so on — but I think the program missed the bigger picture.

This group represents the “Age of Participation” better than most, but the cultural change in our country goes beyond any particular demographic group. The problem with the institutional press version is that it can’t see beyond its own logical limits. Rather than focus on the fruit of a particular group, why not look at what’s driving it, what’s beneath the technological advances? Perhaps what you view as negative attributes aren’t really that at all.

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