What were you doing when the news came through that Princess Diana had been killed in a Paris tunnel? Where were you when the first plane hit the twin towers? What were you thinking when the second plane hit?
These moments and the affects they have on people define generations. While the affects may differ, the event will be just as dramatic and defining for each person. Each will experience a tragedy that tears down their inner sanctum and drains them of their spiritual belief.
When Mandy was 32 she saw the first plane fly into the twin towers whilst she got ready for work.
“At first I thought it was just a movie so I changed the channel. But it was on every channel. It was actually real life. I’ve never been so gobsmacked and scared in my life.”
Pip was 16 when her life was changed forever.
“We knew that it could happen at some point. But for it to actually happen, and for it to be plastered everywhere, that was something else entirely. It was 4:15am when I found out. It was as if my body knew something was wrong.”
She was faced with the news for the first time when she turned on her phone. She felt like she was drowning, like her whole world was caving in around her.
She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t see, her tears blurred her sight and soaked her shirt. She felt paralysed. She couldn’t do anything but scroll through her twitter feed to find the tweet saying it was a joke.
She spent the early morning hours texting friends, hoping that someone, anyone was awake to share the heartbreak. For hours no one replied, so she was left to choke down the tears behind her thin bedroom walls.
For Pip’s best friend, Riley, it was a sunnier; less sleep deprived 6am, when she got the news. It was as mundane as any other school morning, including the usual alarm ignoring routine before getting up for breakfast. That’s when she found out.
“I was mid toast when I saw I had 37 texts from my best friend. Something was wrong.”
4:20 ‘It happened.’
4:20 ‘I can’t believe it actually happened.’
4:29 ‘Go online.’
4:35 ‘Wake up, I need you.’
“I scrolled through my twitter feed and everyone was talking about it. It wasn’t an early April Fools joke, it was real life. I started crying and could barely see the screen anymore. My whole world felt like it had paused.”
On Thursday March 26, these two best friends felt their whole world fall apart. No family member had died, no friend was rushed to hospital, World War Three hadn’t broken out, but their world as they knew it, had ended.
On Thursday March 26, Zayn Malik left One Direction.
In the first 24 hours since the statement had been posted to One Direction’s official Facebook page, 6.6 million tweets were sent about Zayn, according to social analytics site Topsy. 630,000 of these tweets were between 8am – 9am AEST, presumably Australian fans waking up to the tragic news.
Outsiders and news stations were quick to run this teen tragedy and laugh at the heartbreak. “One Direction are now going in different directions,” was the headline on every newsstand and website that plagued Pip, Riley and millions of fans worldwide.
“At first I was in denial. I didn’t believe that this couldn’t have happened, it must’ve been a joke,” Riley explained. She scoured the Internet searching for someone to confirm her theory, but no one could. By the end of the day, she was angry. Angry at Zayn for leaving, for not telling them why he left. She called him selfish, a cheater and drug addict with no real confirmation.
“I was angry at the girls on my Twitter telling me to support him. They were fans; some even friends, but they didn’t get it. They didn’t understand why I didn’t want to support someone who walked away and didn’t even say anything. Who let his publicist write a shitty excuse on a Facebook status. They didn’t understand that I felt like he used us, used me. And never even said sorry.”
“I didn’t want to see the look of pity on my mother’s face, the smirk on my fathers. No one understood what they meant to me, and why it affected me like it did,” Pip said as she gazed at her phone face-up on the table. Zayn was missing from the screensaver as if he had died, and maybe in a sense, he had. He wasn’t part of her world anymore.
Dr Nicholas Carah, a researcher from The University of Queensland who explores the relationship between young people, branding and popular music, explains why the subsequent ending of the One Direction brand, affected millions of teens like Pip and Riley.
“One of the things humans do is create some sort of identity, which is sort of like a story of your life and where you belong in the world. You build this identity by finding cultural resources that other people understand, and in a kind of commercial culture like the one we live in, brands are one of those cultural resources.”
“You see this intense attention around brands like One Direction because they are aimed at people who are at a very formative stage in their lives. In that period of time from age 12-17, you do a lot of your identity building work, and so you get very strong attachments to these brands,” Dr Carah explained.
He then went on to illustrate that with the added realm of social media, brands and brand involvement has skyrocketed, and the impacts of this can be seen in the recent effect Zayn leaving One Direction had on teens worldwide.
“Social media allows Generation Y to connect with brands at an extent never seen previously. This connection and virtual one on one contact allows people to become emotionally and physically attached to these brands. Therefore any change in the brand will affect Generation Y to a greater extent to events 20 or 30 years prior,” explains Dr Carah.
Within every generation there is a defining moment that each person will always remember, where they were and what they were doing when they found out. These defining moments are generally caused by the disbandment of brands. For the ‘Greatest’ generation, these moments were the assassination of JFK and the death of Elvis Presley. For the Baby Boomers and Generation X, the death of Princess Diana, 9/11 and the disappearance of David Bowie defined them. While Generation Y have been shaken by the death of Steve Irwin and Zayn leaving One Direction.
Mandy may always remember holding her breakfast bowl as she watched the first plane fly into the twin towers, but Pip will always remember clutching her phone and crying in bed at 4am when Zayn Malik left One Direction. For those who are part of Generation X and prior, they were merely just watching the event unfold, where as Pip, Riley and the rest of Generation Y were actually living it.