Self-absorbed, narcissistic, lazy and uniformed. These are the first words that come to mind when I think of my generation. Others have christened us the “Me me me generation.” (The ‘baby boomers’ were also called the ‘me generation.’)
Do these labels so often used to describe millennials seem fair?
It’s highly likely that most millennials probably wouldn’t take the time to read an article in the New York Times about the geopolitical significance of the Syrian civil war or the conflict occurring in Ukraine. They’d just skim past it with disinterest before clicking on a BuzzFeed link like this one called “13 Potatoes That Look Like Channing Tatum.” In fact, it’s fairly safe to assume that most millennials likely couldn’t find either one of these countries on a map.
Millennials are the generation that thinks that being an Instagram model is a real job…or that everyone can be a professional photographer and still make a living, even if every other person and their aunt has started a “photography business.” Millennials are the generation that will post a poem or quote from someone like Walt Whitman or George Orwell without reading a single line of O Captain, My Captain or 1984.
Millennials are the generation that turned selfies into a raging, crazed global catastrophe (The fact that numerous people have been injured or killed while taking a selfies or by someone else taking a selfie, should make you seriously consider never taking a selfie again).
Millennials are the generation that has turned the English language into an incomprehensible monster with words, acronyms and phrases like “bae,” and “I can’t even.” Millennials are also the generation that will spout all their opinions and self-aggrandizing reflections on life on their personal blog as if anyone in the world actually cared. (Okay now were getting a little too close for comfort ;))
Millennials aren’t entirely clueless however. Some have dubbed millennials “Generation nice.” In fact, studies show that millennials are in fact more open minded, inclusive and compassionate than previous generations. Surprisingly, millennials are actually very frugal and cautious about how they spend money. Millennials are also quite communally minded. Interestingly enough, more than half of millennials are humble enough to admit that they are perhaps the most narcissistic and self-absorbed generation.
It’s important to remember that millennials have a lot on their plate. Raising children is more expensive now. Millennials pay an average of $3000 more a year to raise children than the previous generation did. The gap between the rich and the poor is larger than it has ever been. College tuition has skyrocketed and incomes for graduates have dropped. In fact, contemporary college students often pay as much as $30,000 more in tuition than their parents did. So the next time your uncle says that millennials need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, just remind him that bootstrap-pulling may be harder than it used to be.
Many make a fallacious comparison between the downfalls of millennials and the greatness of previous generations. In truth every generation has its strengths and weaknesses. The baby boomers had problems and so did their predecessors. To idealize or romanticize any generation is an egregious mistake, one that borders on historical revisionism.
Often you’ll hear an elderly person reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ and how the generation that lived through WWII was the golden generation of America. You might hear something like, “Back in my day, we didn’t take nothin’ that we didn’t earn.” But the truth is millennials aren’t any lazier or more entitled than previous generations.
Let’s not forget that racism and misogyny were the norm a half century ago. “The Greatest Generation” was far from great. Lynchings of African-Americans like fourteen year old Emmett Till, who was brutally tortured and murdered for catcalling a white lady, were commonplace. His face was beaten into a bloody pulp to the point that it was unrecognizable.
“America’s so-called Greatest Generation is great only in comparison to the rubbish that followed them, which frankly and literally they begat.” –Stephen Masty
It’s important to nuance history. We shouldn’t overlook that the WWII generation certainly overcame many obstacles. Similarly, we shouldn’t overlook that sexual and racial discrimination was rampant. The “greatest generation” also confined Japanese-Americans in concentration camps, enforced the Jim Crow laws, firebombed Tokyo and Dresden and segregated schools. The greatest generation was responsible for creating the most destructive force known to man, nuclear weapons, which gave humanity the ability to annihilate itself.
Yes millennials have given us the horrors of selfie-sticks and pseudo-connoisseurs. But we aren’t responsible for the monstrosity that is the 2016 election. We aren’t responsible for the endless series of pointless and immoral wars and government coups that the United States has instigated.
Every generation has its evils. Every generation has the power to rise up against injustice and every generation has done it in their own way, however flawed that may be.
Millennials aren’t any worse or any better than previous generations…the legacy of the next generation, on the other hand, remains to be seen… 😉