Yes, Gen Y is different. We grew up online. We won't get drafted for a war. But our most profound characteristic might be our weak collective consciousness. Our individual identity is stronger and more authentic than our social one.
From the Depression through Vietnam, people the same age grew up around shared experiences. And from these common experiences definable generations were born. People consumed the culture and products directed at their age group. Their social network consisted of whoever lived on their cul-de-sac. And if they needed world news, Walter Cronkite told them.
Thanks to the Internet and globalization, we uber-connected hipsters aren't constrained by incidental factors the way our parents were. Sure, we might share a faint generational dialect with people our own age. But we're finding that a common obsession is a better predictor for a meaningful bond between two people. A lot better than the year our parents happened to have unprotected sex.
You can develop obscure passions by joining virtual, ageless communities around your interests. Love Scottish lighthouses? I guarantee that there's a community for you. Want to start a business selling indie music on MySpace? Nothing's stopping you.
All this means that it's harder than ever to generalize about generational behavior. There is no magic "millennial" dust (Facebook! Blogs! Emo!) that you can sprinkle on your marketing to make it appeal to today's youth. If you want to sell us something, you're going to have to find us. And then not treat us like aliens who parachuted to earth from the Planet Krypton.
I agree with Casnocha in every respect. But I'm somewhat ambivalent when this non-generalizing generalization comes to Mongolian Gen Y. Yes, my generation grew up in an unprecedented environment, and yes, we are relatively individualistic, comparing to our parents. But does that mean we're in the same pot with western Gen Y? If we think about it little bit more carefully, there is something truly unique about us--the radical socio-economic transition--something which the western Gen Y has no idea about--that was instrumental in shaping our world. So, in that respect, Mongolian Gen Y is consciously or unconsciously bound together by common experience. Then does that make Mongolian 20-something year olds somekind of Gen X-ish Gen Y? Or is it an argument indicates that we're an exception and we don't belong to Gen Y at all? Well, that I'm truly interested about...