Brett: "21st Century Digital Boy is just a song about contemporary young people who really grow up with so much technology and they never really have a chance to experience the richness of what culture has to offer because they don't really ever take up reading and so on."
German Stranger Than Fiction promo CD booket: "Will the information revolution improve quality of life or the quality of gizmos? Are you Mac or Windows?"
It is about drugs and about Brett's family (he had rich parents who spoiled him so it's kind of autobiographical) and was inspired by Hetson's comments on Nintendo.
The last part of the song has been partially taken from the song "21st Century Schizoid Man" by King Crimson. This was also mentioned in the liner notes of Against The Grain: "Outro lyrics of 'Digital Boy' stolen from King Crimson 'Schizoid Man'."
|Bad Religion:||King Crimson:|
|Cat's foot, iron claw
Neurosurgeons scream for more
Innocence raped with napalm fire
Anything I want, I really need
|Cat's foot, iron claw
Neurosurgeons scream for more
At paranoias poison door
Twenty first century schizoid man
21st Century (Digital Boy) also shows some resemblance to the song "American Society" by Eddie and The Subtitles.
Jay: "(...) the song is pretty "buried" in the track listing of Against The Grain (#13 out of 17). It wasn't that we thought it too slow, but maybe a bit too much like Eddie and The Subtitles "American Society"."
Eddie and The Subtitles was a punk band from Orange County, California. The song "American Society" appeared on their 1980 LP “Skeletons in the Closet”.
Contrary to reports on the internet, Bad Religion did not write or perform the song live in 1988 and it was never written for the No Control album. According to Jay, it was written specifically for Against The Grain.
Brett said they included the song on Stranger Than Fiction because Atlantic said they didn't "hear a single" in that album and thought the song was a hit so they asked the band to redo it. Brett commented "since we were selling out anyway I didn't see any point in arguing".
Brett says he prefers the Against The Grain version. The outro of this version has a guitar solo behind the vocals and Brett explained that on the Stranger Than Fiction one they forgot to do it and he thinks this may be one of the reasons that the old one has more energy. On the other hand, Hetson said that they re-released 21st century to improve it. According to him Brett wasn't happy with the Against The Grain version (!). Jay said the exact same thing: "(We re-released the song) because we were playing it every night since 1989, 1990. It wasn't that we weren't happy with it. I was thrilled with it. I thought it was a great fucking song. Brett just happened to think that we were playing it better than we played it on the record. He just thought it was the one song of his that had a snowball's chance in hell of being popular. I think one of Brett's quests as a song writer was to write a pop hit. That's hard to do when you're in a punk rock band. He always thought that song could be a pop hit, and he fought for it to get on the record and to be a single. I eventually got tired of saying 'that's not what we do.' That's what he wanted to do when he was a member of the band at the time and we all went 'well, OK, if you feel that strongly about it, we'll put it on the record.' We have a very democratic process which is that if 3 members vote one way, then it's going to happen, unless one member feels so strongly about it, then we all just concede and say 'that's cool.'" Greg Graffin said there is better drumming on the STF version and added: "Stranger than Fiction was a weird record; it was our first major-label record. We knew that a lot of new people would be hearing it, and so we just wanted to make sure that there was something from our history on there that showed that it was still relevant today."
Alternative Press said this song is considered by many Bad Religion fans to be their Smells Like Teen Spirit.
When 21st Century (Digital Boy) first came out on Against The Grain (album), Bad Religion did a video for it with live footage and some images of helicopters and stuff. It was shown in MTV's Headbanger's Ball back then.
Jay: "...there's this video for 21st Century (Digital Boy), that new one with live footage from Europe that no one has ever seen before. It's not that one we made in the pool. That was shot on the 1991 Against The Grain tour. The person that shot it was one of Greg's friends; he's a friend of all of ours. He was working at a company at the time and when it was all said and done they wanted a ton of money from us. We said 'No, fuck you. We're not giving you any money'. So the video lost its purpose and just vanished. I got a copy of it on tape, but I was never going to put it on the internet because they didn't want us to do it and we didn't pay for it. How it got out onto the internet I don't know. Things will eventually surface." Currently, the video cannot be found. 
The song (STF recording) was featured in an advertisement for Apoteket, a Sweedish on-line pharmacy.
Brett almost rejected the song becaue it sounded too much like Alice Cooper's "Poison" to him.
^ Roger Vulture interview with Brett (1996)
^ https://www.thebrpage.net/media/item.asp?itemID=393 The BR Page - Report From Amsterdam
^ The BR Page - Media: "Bad Religion's Greg Graffin talks about the band's 40 years of punk rock"
|06/28||added german promo booklet in song meaning - By Stinger66|
|06/03||added Brett rejection trivia - By Stinger66|
|03/19||moved Jay quote - By Stinger66|
|03/17||added jay quote about ATG chico digtal video - By Stinger66|
|03/14||added TOC - By Marty|
|02/06||added commerical trivia - By Stinger66|
|07/04||added director of video (Gore Verbinski) - By wrong planet|
|03/24||added pictures of the video shoot - By wrong planet|
|07/23||reference added - By wrong planet|
|06/02||Added reference for the rumor about the song having been intended for No Control - By Marty|