Over-sexed, pampered, grasping and selfish - that's the twenty-something Generation Y in all its glory. But, asks REGINA LAVELLE, how accurate is the popular perception?
We're over-indulged, self-absorbed and celebrity-obsessed. We're more interested in the gossip from Sunset Boulevard than the politics on Kildare Street. We'd sleep with the boss for a promotion and we'd whip off our gear for a spot of pole dancing to make a quick buck.
While Generation X was the venerated cool kid, with Kurt Cobain as its patron saint and grunge as its legacy, this is the hard-partying younger sister who, when she isn't sleeping off a hangover, spends her time shopping since she's still 'between jobs'. Welcome to Generation Y - the generation that morality forgot.
If you happen to be born between 1977 and the mid-'80s, then acquaint thyself with Paris Hilton as she is thy role model. Your ambition is to become a WAG or marry well, and live out your days chowing down on diet pills and watching reality TV. So worry not your pretty little heads with lecture notes, Gen Y; a French manicure and platinum dye will get you much further along to your goal.
Or so at least the cliché goes, and if you're aged between 20 and 29 you've heard them all. You're lazy, slutty and unmotivated. But who cares? Pass the remote - I'm missing Laguna Beach.
Comprising more than 16% of the Irish population, with its oldest members pushing 30, it would seem that in spite of Gen Y's ignorance and superficiality, we aren't faring so bad. The economy hasn't yet succumbed to a workforce more likely to be instant messaging friends than finishing up those spreadsheets.
The Sodom and Gomorrah scenario - prophesied by surveys like that recently published in New Woman magazine, labelling us the 'Easy Life' generation more ambitious to bag a rich bloke than manage a successful career - hasn't really come to pass. So could it be a case of sour grapes?
"I'd hate to say sour grapes," says Dr Carmen Kuhling, lecturer in sociology and women's studies at the University of Limerick, "but it's too easy to scapegoat one generation and blame them for all the modern ills.
"The reality is that everything is changing so fast and there's such a dislocation of norms that everyone is fighting to keep pace. When that happens every generation accuses the next of a lack of morality."
But Gen Y's lack of moral fibre appears to run deep. Of the 3,000 women (average age 28) questioned in the New Woman survey, almost half said they would flirt to improve their chances of promotion and 10% would sleep with the boss to achieve certain promotion. (For an ostensibly forward-thinking glossy magazine this seems a rather regressive line of questioning. New Woman? Old bigotry, more like.)
Meanwhile, just under half said they'd rather pole dance for a night to make ?1,500 than spend 160 hours at the office. But put in such a loaded context, even your granny would probably answer yes.
The inference of all these statistics is the same - that this generation, particularly its women, are characterised not merely by laziness and sluttiness but by ignorance. Strange, then, that census figures should show that women with third level qualifications outstrip men by 10%. Not all those women could have written theses on the culture relevance of lap-dancing.
Generation X started the ball rolling but this generation has wholeheartedly rejected the live-to-work philosophy of the baby boomers. A 2006 graduate survey of 26,000 European students found that work/life balance is now the most popular career goal.
It may well be that Gen Y doesn't want the long hours and non-existent home life bequeathed by the established corporate culture, but that hardly equates to laziness.
"The new generation is prioritising their life in other terms," continues Dr Kuhling. "They are the most psychologically healthy generation and that produces better parents and better workers. From that point of view the critiques are invalid."
It may well be that previous generations did work harder but the circumstances were wildly different. Back then, jobs meant permanence and fewer had third level education so they had more to lose.
"Generation X did have to work harder," agrees Dr Margaret Anne Lawlor, lecturer in marketing communications at DIT. "But that was the culture of the day. Gen Y works and plays. Given the culture, they have fairly reasonable expectations. They've never known recession and they have a sense of purpose.
"They're practical and worldly in their outlook and they're used to having financial autonomy. They aspire to good jobs but social networking is also very important to them - that's why you've had the success of myspace and bebo."
Since time began, older members of society have bemoaned the loose morals and looser time-keeping of its young pretenders. As Kuhling says: "Every generation wants to rebel against the moral framework. The new generation is just adjusting to the status quo. It will take a while before the rest of us catch up."
In the meantime, there's plenty of pole dancing to be done...
Are we all that bad?
Ray Foley presents presents 'The Blast' on Today FM. He was born in 1980.
"I hold my hands-up to some of the accusations. I don't really know the value of money and if I see an anyway convincing ad for something I'll buy it. I bought an iPod even though I already had a perfectly good MP3 player.
"People do live in the moment. They're more concerned with having a new pair of runners than they are about a social conscience.
"Even with global warming - okay, so it's not our fault - but it shows how ignorant of world affairs people are when it had to be released as a movie to get people interested. To be regarded as someone in Generation Y is a bit of an insult really."
Emma O'Driscoll is a TV presenter. She took part in the reality show 'Popstars' and was a member of the resulting band, Six. She was born in 1982.
"I was part of the reality TV but I didn't enter to become famous - I wanted to sing. Having said that, I never said no to the fame.
"People think I've had things on a silver platter, from Six to TV presenting, but I've really had to work. I was singing and dancing long before the show. I auditioned against 30 people to get the presenting gig.
"If people think this generation is bad, the next will be a lot worse. We made the most of opportunities but we worked to achieve them; the kids growing up now are told they're brilliant from the minute they're born."
Rachel Kavanagh plays Lauren in 'Fair City'. She is also a student of business and politics in TCD. She was born in 1983.
"We are the 'want it all' generation but I think the culture has predisposed us towards this mindset. Having more opportunities has made people more ambitious. Now we can strive for whatever we what - it's a confidence thing.
"Our lifestyles are a lot more liberal in this generation and we have more material possessions. When my parents look at me they think I'm a million miles away from how they grew up. Sometimes we're so different that I'm surprised we can talk to each other.
"From the age of 18 I was going to private members' clubs but I've always worked my ass off. I bought my own car and taxed and insured it, even when friends of mine were being bought theirs."
Molly Breathnach presents 'S@ttitude' on RTE1. She was born in 1980.
"I don't think people in my generation are ignorant or lazy. Some are, but you can't stereotype a generation on the actions of a few.
"There are some people who are obsessed by celebrity, but no more so than people being obsessed by the royals 20 years ago. That interest has just been directed elsewhere. As for wanting to be famous? Definitely not.
"I'm in TV because I love it, not because I want to be a celebrity. I couldn't think of anything more abhorrent. I'd hate to live like Jennifer Aniston. You'd never have any privacy."
Gen Y in the arts
Movies Fight Club, 1999
American Beauty, 1999
The Matrix trilogy, 1999-2003
Lord Of The Rings, 2001
Kill Bill 2003
Donnie Darko, 2001
Sin City, 2005
Albums Radiohead, OK Computer, 1997
Limp Bizkit, Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavoured Water, 2000
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Californication, 1999
Television Pop Idol/American Idol
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