We're the first generation to grow up online, last to know patience

Priyanka Mookerjee
Priyanka MookerjeeApr 21, 2016 | 16:59

We're the first generation to grow up online, last to know patience

Less than a month ago, Jessica Knoll’s now-famous Lenny article went viral, along with some of the harsher truths driving her debut novel, Luckiest Girl Alive. Like any upstanding internet intellectual, I read the article, and then quickly Amazoned the book into my hands.

Touted as a worthy successor to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Luckiest Girl Alive features a somewhat similarly cruel (if less complex) female lead who is busy using the glamour and shine of a fabulous-looking life to cover up a past rife with the darkest of disturbances.


But, most interestingly, nestled between the high fashion references and compelling plot was a subtle denouncement of that stubborn, pervasive, transgenerational mantra: having it all. Or, as Knoll puts it, "cool job, impressive zip code, hungry body, and the kicker- dreamboat fiancé."

Add "purpose" and "direction" to the list and yup, that pretty much sums it up. That’s what we all want. Or what we’re supposed to want, anyway.

It’s been a seminal six months for me. In December, I got engaged to the most wonderful person I’ve ever met. This month, my first book, the pride, joy and obsession of my entire adult life, is hitting the shelves. I’m excited about the wedding: the arrangements seem to be coalescing into that perfect mix of meaningful, elegant and quirky. My Instagram is going to be so good.

Our formative years have been marked by information and data rapidly expanding.

The trouble is, like Knoll’s protagonist, Ani, I haven’t been sleeping. Unlike Ani, however, I don’t have any concrete reasons, no terrible episodes in my past that justifiably keep me up at night. I just lie awake, tossing and turning, vaguely worrying about the wide, blank swathe of an unknowable future. The only thing that seems to help is writing, working on a story about two teenagers and their coming-of-age shenanigans.


I find myself funnelling past the present, back into the teenage mindscape, happily regressing into a comfortable, easy space.

I don't know how I can feel so old at 26, so nostalgic about the last decade that I read every Buzzfeed listicle about the 2000's with a wistful twist to my insides.

Maybe it's because that was the last time I was actively thinking on my own, the last time I wasn’t bombarded by my phone and computer screen every day, drawing me in, telling me exactly what’s going on and how I should feel about it.

We don’t smoke, we don’t do carbs. Paleo is good, Pilates even better. Let’s get closer to the earth, belly to the ground. Sexuality is a spectrum, individuality is on-demand, mass produced via fast fashion and the democracy of insta-images. Everybody works in California: salad lunches and social media, cold pressed corporate casual. We won’t just figure out the world, you guys. We’ll fu*king FIX it.

There is so much happening, so much to process, so many right and wrong things to say and do and wear and eat that weeks can fly by without finding the time to simply sit down and sort through everything we have just been hit with.


Our world evolved so fast that we barely had time to keep up, running from slam books to MSN Messenger to phones so smart they feel indispensible. Our formative years have been marked by information and data rapidly expanding, saturating the very air around us - a silent, potent, persistent pollution.

We were the first generation to grow up online and the last one to know patience. We were delighted with dial-up and can’t do without Wi-Fi. We watched economies collapse, terror mongering escalate, and ran away from Facebook because our parents wandered over to it.

We were delighted with dial-up and can’t do without Wi-Fi.

We are smarter, healthier, more stressed and more scared than those who came before us, scrolling through our friends following their dreams while we just try to pay the bills and have enough left over for wine.  

We know to be wary of buses and autos and the city streets after dark, pepper spray at the ready. We stay electric till 3 am, Netflix and roasts and make-up tutorials hollowing out shadows under our eyes. We’re intimate, so intimate, with all our flaws, because we have to crop, retouch, Valencia and Rise.

Are you still eating gluten? Are you keeping your core tight? Have you read "The Really Big One"? What are the chances we’ll make it out alive?

Sometimes, it feels like the world will wipe us out before we even get to grow up. That our own zeitgeist, moving at the warp-speed we have set, will betray us, will leave us behind before we know it. That one day we’ll wake up, 38 and obsolete, stuffed full of information but bereft of experiences.

That we’ll have spent so much of our youth and energy concentrating on ascribing to the labels that speak to us that we've never spent time in silence. Never really known ourselves.

Hedon, by Priyanka Mookerjea; Penguin Random House; Rs 299.

My grandfather didn’t talk much, especially not about himself, the way I constantly do. He didn’t scramble to fill silences or grasp at the chance to make a good point. Instead, he told stories; childhood tales, anecdotes about interesting patients and curious ailments, legends, myths, and lore.

I have only now come to recognise that they all had one thing in common: a steadfast moral axis that, for better or worse, pointed to an ironclad sense of self. That’s the holy grail, isn’t it? The difference between having it all and knowing what you actually want to have?

Hemingway was one of his favourite writers, worn copies of his works easily accessible around the house. I remember reading The Sun Also Rises, fascinated as only a nine-year-old can be by words she only half-understands. How mystical it seemed, the idea of a lost generation. A colossal mass of people, just going missing. Not able to be seen, nowhere to be found.

You get on in years, you go to college. You re-read Hemingway and realise there’s more than one way to be lost.

The fear of being irrelevant is timeless.

Last updated: April 21, 2016 | 17:33
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