A Shattering of Voices
A Shattering of Voices: A Generation’s Silence
By Jessica Miles, contributing writer
When I think of what defines my generation, I immediately think of New York City’s Times Square, splashed with a blur of cluttered confusion, littered with images and words; a statement of where we are in all aspects of our cultural spectrum. It is characterized by a scene of ever-changing advertisements and symbols controlling the wide-eyed society which makes up this generational hub. Below, people flood the streets as if on a roller coaster, in a constant rush and in constant need for more-more action, more modernization, more excitement, and more media-inspired innovation. This overwhelming nature has drastically morphed since my pre-teen years when it was a crime to miss that latest quarrel in the Tanner household on Full House and when Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop were considered celebrities. However, simplicity is no longer momentous in our media-saturated environment, as new demands are constantly being met in the most fixated ways.
Affluenza, an affliction characterized by seeking happiness through materialism, is hypnotizing us into believing this is what we desire, but a growing dependency on consumption does not seem to be getting us any closer to the top. As we relentlessly question our needs and demands we descend in our own trepidation and continue to lack answers. Instead we are falling further into dismay and drowning in our own misconceptions of where we expect our lives to lead. Imagine if Times Square was stripped of commercialization, the lights and the movement that drive us to attain bigger and better things. We would be left to rely on individual uniqueness to paint the scene, instead of concentrated corporations chasing endless profit.
I’m living in a generation characterized by disarray and fabricated, ill-minded emptiness. Unfortunately, this has emerged as the cultural norm. I’d hate to think we are viewed as scantily clad midriffs or uncaring mooks who find some muddled inspiration from the iconic, pop culture “role models” of the world. But my hope may be futile. Image and fantasy have trumped education and literacy. This status quo has become a sort of mutilated yet somehow captivating reality, and with it comes the deterioration of individualism, eccentricity, and voice.
Where have all the voices gone? It may have been somewhat before my time, but I still enjoy the sounds of raw, yet true talent. It is disappointing to think that John Mayer’s, ‘Waiting on the World to Change’ is this generation’s muted version of ‘What’s Going On?’ I grew up looking forward to being mesmerized by my generation’s rising voices and experiencing a real sense of camaraderie that would be inspired by these voices. The bellowing echoes of infamous celebrities flooding media outlets are a far cry from the voices that define past generations.
The media may be the source of what seems to be our generation’s bewilderment. It fascinates me that in spite of the vast spectrum of media sounds and images, we still struggle to find substance in content. Our choices are limited to exaggerated headlines suggesting inappropriate sexual content consistently splashed across magazine covers like Cosmopolitan and an endless number of disgraceful reality shows based on everything from celebrities to fear tactics, sports competitions to dating shows, and makeover shows to renovation shows. Furthermore, headline news has turned into a baffled mix of sensationalism. Should the daily lives of celebrities be deemed important information? In our endless desire for sensationalism have we given media moguls justification in further developing what Newton Minnow termed “the vast wasteland?” I don’t believe these are the stories for which society tunes in. It seems unlikely that mass media can become a serious, trustworthy, honest form of communication because of the tabloidism that bounds our generation.
Reality is no longer based on truth; it is based on convergence, profit, perception, and hyper-commercialism, which are overwhelming all means of communication available to us, and because of this, there is by no means any sort of control or solidity holding this generation together. We have successfully blinded ourselves from realism and authenticity and allowed a failed sense of idealism to dictate our existence. This has led to a fragmented culture with no common goal, a remote comparison to previous generations who upheld democratic principles and stood together to fashion a voice. So what will ultimately define us?
With such variability it seems our generation will continue on this cycle of pursuance – waiting for the world to change, instead of proactively changing the present for the sake of the future. The shallow insights which perpetually influence our generation’s way of life have eroded our sense of dignity. We continue to be dependent on a deficient media structure instead of using our own voices. This is my generation, where lessons will not be learned until our children are even more embedded in this artificial culture than we are. Only then will we realize what we have failed to say.
Jessica Miles currently attends Bryant University as a junior majoring in Communication and is preparing to act as Assistant News Editor for the Bryant University newspaper, The Archway. She is working toward a future in the Journalism field.
Image (above): Cover of Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, by John deGraaf, et al. (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2005)