Gen Y and Millenials – A Difference in Software

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about “Generation Y” (my cohort) and the strange nostalgic attachment to the franchises of the 80s and 90s. Here is another great one by JD Cowan (I recently did a narration of his “Gen Y Fragment”)

The big difference between these two is nostalgia – Gen Y is obsessed with it, but the Millenials, who grew up in the grey 00s, seem to have no attachment to the past at all.

Both of these cohorts have something in common, as Author Brian Niemeier has told me: they both grew up with failed institutions. The difference is that the institutions seemed sound for Gen Y, who took in the credible lies of their boomer parents only to become disillusioned as adults, but these institutions were obviously deficient for the Millenials, who grew up with metal detectors in schools and a constant high-tension obsession with left-right politics.

In the absence of the most important institution – marriage – Gen Y was programmed by schools and afternoon TV. Millennials were programmed by the internet and by the school. There’s a big difference between those two.

This results in a “software” difference. They are both running the routines of their youth. Gen Y is constantly trying to re-create the context of their memories to resolve their current mental dissonance; Millenials are living out the dissonance of their programming in real-time.

It’s no accident that the most extreme thinkers tend to be Millenials – the blue-haired, shrieking narcissists the internet loves to mock, who cannot fathom a reality that is different than the one they are living out. It is a kind of rigid madness that can scarcely be described – you have to witness it. And growing up on the internet, there is no difference between the net and real life. Hate speech on twitter is literally assault to some of these people, because that is all they have ever known.

Gen Y at least can remember something different.

I have no hatred towards Millenials per se but I do recognize that they were particularly vulnerable to forces people hadn’t yet gotten a handle on.

What was missing from both?


Gen Y finds meaning in memory. The Millenial generation finds meaning in acting out programming meant to replace it.

Pre-order my new non-fiction book on creativity, coming in March!

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