The N generation

Every generation has a nickname attached to it. There are baby boomers (all over the world), lost generation (in Japan), X/Y generation (in the US). In Taiwan, the equivalent of the Y generation is called the "strawberry generation" (草莓族 – wow it's in Wikipedia). Indeed, they might be collectively soft and sweet and fragile as a strawberry. Whoever thought up that buzzword might be a genius, but I cannot help feeling sorry for those people with a ‘strawberry’ associated with their profile for whatever reason.

Worse, the association stays permanently, just like the music we have listened to as teenagers. (It is probably the only thing I envy about the baby boomers – they grew up on Beatles, unlike my Bon Jovi, Duran Duran, Starship, Bangles…that means, we are still likely humming We Built This City in our twilight. Doomed…)

That was a few years ago. Time flies, and Taiwan has the "N generation – N世代" coming out of the schools. N is for network, which is cool (Now I am really sorry, strawberries). According to Taiwanese media, this generation have spent almost all of their conscious life using computers and accessing the Internet. Beating War of the Warcraft wasn't a flock, after all – it is not clear if this guy belongs to the N generation bracket, but probably not too far off.

Shit, I could have seen it coming. It was exactly 18 years ago when my classmates and I were discovering the endless possibility of that magic black box called the Internet in our lab, by gazing into photos of people making out with horses.

My Chinese teacher pointed out one unique thing about this generation; they are accustomed to having all information immediately. The moment they want to know something or connect with someone, they can have it. Movie? Torrent. Music? iTunes. Rumors? Twitter. Updates? Facebook. I belong to the generation where we still feel the instant and permanent access to information is a luxury. For them, it is commodity.

I think the fundamental difference in attitude toward access to information makes a real generation gap, a game changer. We (olds) can adapt easily to new tools, new skills, even new cultures. But the attitude won't change. It's too deeply rooted in our psychology. Years of treating the new generations as our contaminated carbon copies are (already) over. They live in a different world, different enough to refuse makeshift catch-up in the old generation's mind.