We have become the Choice Generation. Don’t quite get what I mean? Just look at my typical weekend in 2013.
My roommates and I wake up around 11 a.m. and agree to go out for cheeseburgers. We want to avoid listening to Mumford & Sons on my terrestrial car radio, so we plug a smartphone directly into the dashboard. After singing backing vocals to a few Frank Ocean tracks at an exceedingly foolish volume, we get bored and hunt down a video of DMX’s seminal “X Gon’ Give it to Ya” mashed up with the theme from “Ghostbusters.” We are amused and the song loops five times before we agree on a parking spot.
From there, I am subsequently rendered useless for the next half hour, because it is physically impossible to order a cheeseburger in 2013. If you want bacon, PYT Burger will give it to you plain, chocolate-covered, made out of turkey or mixed into a milkshake. Its buns come in sesame, wheat, brioche – a type of bread that I am still attempting to define or understand – or in the form of fried Krispy Kreme mini-doughnuts, because in America, each and every one of us has the God-given right to diabetic shock.
If you find yourself at Bobby’s Burger Palace in West Philadelphia instead, it allows patrons to “crunchify” any and all burgers – that is, coat them in potato chips, because Iron Chef Bobby Flay is a reckless and dangerous human being that must be apprehended at all costs.
Microsoft Word will even let me add “crunchify” to my laptop’s personally-curated dictionary if I so desire, but I will die before I let Bobby Flay win.
Upon arriving home, I might mull my course schedule for the upcoming semester online for a while. I’ll quietly debate the benefits of taking a course on Japanese crime fiction instead of “Adventure Climbing” or “Advanced Self-Defense in the Event that You Are Cornered by an Ill-Tempered Kodiak Brown Bear.” Sometimes I’ll re-arrange my entire schedule just to ruin the day of a poor intern at the Office of the Registrar. I have yet to finalize my courses for next semester.
Regardless, at around 2 a.m. each Sunday morning, I plod endlessly through my borrowed Netflix queue until I pass out without watching anything.
My point? Never in the history of human life have people been confronted with more personal decisions each and every day. Observant students like myself sit and watch as the Millennial generation around us grows both older and more symbiotic with the Internet each year and our worlds become increasingly personalized and sequestered along with it.
My friends with unlimited phone data can use Spotify to stream quite close to every single song that has been or ever will be recorded to their headsets at will without buying a single album. Furthermore, every gym treadmill that I’ve ever sprinted on has offered me my own personal television and audio hookup, encouraging me to watch “Bar Rescue” as if I’m sitting on my living room sofa and no where near the human beings exercising 18 inches away from me.
People in their 20s have grown up in a world where they’re given what they want at the exact time they want it in the specific flavors and smells that they swear they need to be happy in that exact moment.
And I sincerely feel like I’m beginning to see some consequences.
Case in point: My buddy Andrew insists on playing his own music at each and every party he attends. He brings his own iPod, elbows his way to the nearest stereo, unplugs whatever carefully selected playlist the people that actually live in said home have chosen for the evening and treats us to Wiz Khalifa tracks from 2009 that absolutely no one – minus Andrew – wants to hear. If and when he is confronted by an angry host, his reply is almost always an indignant: “I run music wherever I go.”
No, you don’t, Andrew. You are displaying an entitled and borderline psychotic track of reasoning. Are you so used to conducting your life to the backdrop of your own preset soundtrack that you can’t let someone else take the musical reins for two to three hours, at most? In his or her own home, no less? Where does this line of logic end? If I invite you to my house for dinner in 20 years, will you uncontrollably beat my children with a leather belt and shove cauliflower down their throats, all the while repeatedly shouting, “I run parenting wherever I go” in my face? Where did you learn this behavior?
The Internet, once the great harbinger of free information, has forced upon young people the idea that each and every human deserves exactly what they want at all times. While I do not have the authority to decide whether or not this is an inalienable right extended to all humans, my sneaking suspicions force me to believe the contrary.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got three seasons of “Community” to go catch up on.
Jerry Iannelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jerryiannelli.