The other day, I came across a Yahoo opinion article, entitled “The Pornification of America”, that recycled every rant already heard about the Millennial Generation, also known as Gen Y, the YouTube Generation or people born in the late-80’s and 90’s. This op article lifts a lot from a similarly gracious Time article (the front page title was “The Me Me Me Generation”.)
While I find most Yahoo articles questionable, it seems like hating on millennials while hailing us as the future kids who will change the world with technology has a cult following these days. Here are some running themes in current, sophisticated critiques about the Millennial generation:
1.) We are, like, totally obsessed with technology #FBstatusupdate#TWEET!
2.) However, we will revolutionize the world with it.
3.) We are narcissistic, self-obsessed, and attention-seeking.
4.) We are entitled.
5.) We are lazy and illiterate.
6.) We are obsessed with fame, reality TV, looks, and other superficial things.
7.) We are socially awkward because we only prefer to converse through social media and/or with robots.
8.) According to Joel Stein’s quote in this article, we also lack empathy?
9.) We also happen to love all other things demonic, un-intellectual, superficial, and all negative traits.
I will leave the list at that. There might be more comments I have heard, but you get the drift. Basically, a lot of these commentaries imply that if previous generations had social media and smartphones, they would have behaved very differently – possibly with more discipline, compassion, and sophistication. I feel that the media spotlight shed on the Millennial generation is largely shared with that on recent technological advancements. However, is our utilization and enjoyment of recent technological developments, such as Facebook, YouTube, and cellphones akin to being obsessed with them? When previous generations welcomed developments in television, radio, the telephone, etc., was it a bad thing? Did they not idolize the singers, models, and actresses of their time? Are not recent technological advancements just a continuation of technological innovation and research that has been going on for centuries?
And then there are even more questions. Are not older people – not just millennials – utilizing these technologies as well? Gen X-ers are also taking to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by storm to reap the benefits: connect with friends and family members, promote themselves and their businesses, prey on minors via Internet, and what have you. Real housewives are launching their careers on reality TV, and don’t tell me that all of the producers of reality television and judges on American Idol are 20-something-year-olds.
As for the notion that millennials are narcissistic because they utilize social media to promote themselves, is it not possible that people with narcissistic personalities are more likely to self-promote using social media, and not the other way around? Because of their omniscient presence on the interwebs, it is easier to notice these people and conclude that ALL millennials behave this way. As someone who recently completed university, I can tell you that I have some narcissistic Facebook connections who populate their newsfeed with selfies and constant status updates, but many who do not use Facebook for this purpose. Many of my university friends are studious nerds who spent more time in college trying to score high on their MCATs and GREs than posing for Facebook. We just don’t hear much from young people like these since they are usually hidden away in a library.
Does it make sense to characterize an ENTIRE generation of people, who are supposed to be in their twenties AND thirties, with the aforementioned traits? What about social, economic, and cultural differences? I am assuming that since the publications I refer to are American publications, their commentaries apply to American millennials (although they usually don’t specify this.) In addition, the typical criticisms assume that every millennial had the privilege to live a Western middle-class, suburban lifestyle where they were spoiled and coddled by their parents. While most parents, I believe, want the best for their children, I doubt they all get the opportunity to cushion their kids from various hardships.
Finally, I would like to question whether these aforementioned perceptions of millennials are based on hard facts or just shoddy judgments by older people trying to make use of their English and humanities degrees. How credible are our critics? Are they totally devoid of the bad habits they accuse our generation of: narcissism, addiction, vanity, laziness, and excess? Are they just using their self-righteous critiques to stroke their own egos? While I lament the over-generalization of millennials, I would also like to mention that not all people of older generations are guilty of doing so. Most of my professors, mentors, and relatives have the sense to evaluate people on a case-by-case basis. They praise us when we do good things, and scold us when we slack off.
In conclusion, while society is always in flux with its technological and historical changes, I stand by the fact that humanity has its constants. People in every generation have to deal with their aspirations, desires, love, relationships, need to find a community and niche, financial security, emotional security, job security, personal value systems, and so on. Differing personalities handle their struggles in different ways, but the presence of social media and smartphones will not turn us into robots. The use of technology will always reflect the intentions of the user behind it. With that, I hope the ridiculous commentating on millennials will eventually cease.
P.S. I would like to share a counter-argument with a compilation of similar criticisms about other generations, titled “Every Every Every Generation Has Been the Me Me Me Generation”. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/05/me-generation-time/65054/#.UaF6vJUZP4w.facebook
Another counter-argument: http://www.thenation.com/blog/174377/why-millennials-arent-lazy-entitled-narcissists#
And finally, here is the original blog: http://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/pornification-america-complicated-relationship-youtube-generation-141600263.html