A few weeks ago, a 21-year-old TJC and UT-Tyler student embodied the definition of her generation: Generation I.

Everyone’s heard of the cynical Generation X youth of 15 years ago. Today’s youth has been negatively labeled Generation Y (in a narcissistic sense, as in “Why do I have to learn this? Why is this important to me?”)

The label “Generation I” can have dozens of meanings (iPod, information, instant, internet). However, when Rana Khalifa decided to organize a peace rally in the middle of Tyler for a bloody conflict escalating on the other side of the world, she proved that the “I” should stand for “involved.”

Too many young people forget that now is the time for growing up. That involves becoming adults and making informed decisions about the world.

The Generation Y college student will spend their days in a self-centered world. Instead of paying attention to global headlines, most of their news comes from Perez Hilton. Rather than deciding which candidate most closely resembles their own ideals, they will spend hours on Facebook deciding which “Which Harry Potter character are you?”

The argument that the Gen Y student has is that one person could never make a difference anyway. Loads of money and celebrity endorsement went into the sarcastic “Don’t Vote” advertisements of the 2008 Presidential Campaign designed to get Gen Y students to believe that everyone counts.

The Gen Y student believes that the only time anyone – least of all “the Man” – pays attention to colleges is during a sports game or a shooting spree.

Although it could be argued that the media’s first major reality check with social-networking sites was the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007. Now the media is watching Websites that are popular with today’s generation like never before.

On the day of President Obama’s inauguration, CNN, which had partnered with Facebook, estimated that 1.5 million statuses had been updated with messages about Obama at a rate of 4,000 a minute.

Co-founder of Twitter, Biz Stone, estimated that 3,600 “tweets,” a form of miniature blog post, were sent about a southern California earthquake in 2008, nine minutes before the Associated Press posted an official story about the incident. The crash of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson River last month sparked a rush of pictures and video taken from cell phones, which overloaded the servers of Twitter’s picture blog application.

A majority of the users of these social networking sites are young people, and they are wielding the power of information and influence that the previous generations could not have even comprehended.

Khalifa’s peace rally, organized via a Facebook Event page, gathered approximately 85 people from as far away as Dallas and attracted media coverage from KLTV and Tyler Morning Telegraph.

Now, more than ever, youth has a voice, and Khalifa chose to use hers to successfully support a cause.

Every young person in this generation needs to choose to either be a part of Generation “Why can’t I just do it later?” or Generation “I can.”

Sources: CNN.com, Facebook.com

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