There’s been a lot of talk lately about my generation – The Millennials/Generation Y. Namely that we’re entitled, egotistical cry babies who serve no purpose but to irritate everyone with our whining about how life isn’t fair while living in our parents’ basements rent-free. This may be true of some people, but it certainly isn’t true of me, my friends, my family members of the same age, or, I’m betting, the majority of my peers.
At the forefront of all this badmouthing are authors such as Mark Bauerlein, who wrote The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future and articles with titles like “Generation Y Bother” and “Millennials: The New Office Moron.” Thanks, media. As obnoxious as these books and articles are, the phenomenon of older generations stereotyping and trivializing younger generations is nothing new. Baby Boomers did it with Gen X, and the Silent Generation and Great Generation did it to Baby Boomers. Socrates even did it in a famous rant about the corrupt youth of Athens. The amount of attention millennials are getting for our perceived flaws is pretty new, though, and as much as I know I shouldn’t take it to heart, it pisses me off. Not only are generalizations about Millennials offensive, they are categorically untrue. Read on…
- Millennials are lazy slackers. In every age group there are going to be lazy people, so surprise – its not just people ages 18 – 30. Most of us have a strong work ethic and work our butts off. The technology many take for granted nowadays has helped how we work in a number of ways (i.e., making it faster) and while older generations may not recognize it as how they did/do things, we are getting just as much (if not more) stuff done. I promise.
- Millennials are weak. Many of us grew up being told we were unique and special and older generations feel this has made us soft. Look, almost every parent thinks their kid is special and just because we were the first generation where it was generally looked down upon to smack your kid doesn’t make us wimps, it means we were brought up in loving, healthy homes. Homes that strived for higher levels of self-esteem and confidence in our skills (attributes employers want in a worker). True, some of us are entitled jerks, but guess what? So are some old people. That’s just the way the world works.
- Millennials are entitled. This relates to #2. Being told you’re special and great is generally wonderful, but it can certainly have adverse effects on some people. Having gone to a private art school, I was surrounded by my fair share of entitled bozos. But as soon as the real work started and the harsh landscape of secondary education and no-nonsense professors kicked in, entitlement problems were promptly squashed. And any of the aforementioned bozos who squeaked through graduation were summarily bitch-slapped into reality when it came time to find and keep a job in the real world.
- Millennials are irresponsible. Oh puh-leez. Having been told we’re so fabulous during our formative years, we have big, big goals and the drive and ambition to go out there and achieve them. This means being able to get a job, pay our bills, live on our own, and generally be functional and (gasp!) contributing members of society. Social responsibility is huge for my generation, as well, and ofttimes we’ll rally to help those of us who aren’t as fortunate. We grew up watching horrific events like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, which helped to shape our moral compasses and develop strong senses of social responsibility.
- Millennials don’t respect previous generations. I take great issue with this one. While I don’t feel that just because someone is older than me they automatically deserve my respect (Hitler is older than me. Just saying.), I don’t think discounting my elders because they are so totally un-hip or out of touch or whatever is a smart choice, and I think many of my peers would agree with me. Older people, having lived longer, have (duh) experienced more than I have and can pass down to me their wisdom, thereby shortening the learning curve. Teachers, parents, and mentors are treasure troves of wisdom and tips and can provide a unique perspective on a wide variety of things. Like I said, though, I don’t respect someone just because they are older – respect is something to be earned on both sides of a relationship. That said, when someone from an older generation earns a Millennial’s respect, that respect is powerful.
While certainly not a comprehensive list, these are the top five complaints I’ve heard lodged against us Millennials that really exasperate me. Being able to address and recognize these issues, though, can help us stand up against the mounting marginalization we face on a daily basis. And if all else fails, just remember that we can put all the complainers in substandard retirement homes in a few years.