I really dislike the word millennial. I dislike it for a few reasons. For one, the word comes with a certain stigma. Young, spoiled, pretentious, entitled. For two, I think Gen Y sounds cooler. For three, it’s four syllables, and I’m not a fan of any word with more than three syllables. For four, I think the whole concept of generations (The Greatest Generation*, The Silents, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y) is ridiculous and just a completely arbitrary construct.
*You want to talk about pretentious? How about referring to your collective selves as the GREATEST GENERATION.
I was reading a column in the New York Times about millennials. It was not positive. There are a lot of those types of columns these days as we slowly make our way and slither our tentacles into the U.S. workforce. The premise: we’re terrible people, we love our phones, we have no attention spans, we can’t talk to anyone, and the world is doomed. Here’s an except:
The art of conversation is almost a lost one. People talk as they ride bicycles – at a rush – without pausing to consider their surroundings. What has been generally understood as cultured society is rapidly deteriorating into baseness and voluntary ignorance.
OK, listen, I know we talk fast and we text a lot and we sometimes … oh no, wait … that’s not from the New York Times, that’s a quote from Marie Corelli in 1905.
Alright, here’s the real quote:
Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespsect for their elders.
Alright, bro, I know our manners aren’t the best and we’re sometimes disrespectful and we tend to … wait a second, that’s a quote from Socrates in 500 BC.
Here is a quote from 100 years ago:
A hundred years ago it took so long and cost so much to send a letter that it seemed worth while to put some time and thought into writing it. Now the quickness and the cheapness of the post seem to justify the feeling that a brief letter to-day may be followed by another next week – a line “now” by another to-morrow.
The point I’m trying to make here, if you haven’t figured it out already, is this:
1. Every generation hates the generation that comes after it.
2. The reasons are similar.
You think that the pace of modern life is too fast and the world is changing too quickly and everyone is spoiled and no one can have a conversation, but what you don’t realize is that everyone has been saying that forever.
I think this cycle plays itself out over and over again because: as you get older, you start to feel like you don’t matter anymore. You see new technology and new slang and new ways of doing things and you think, Jesus, this is so different than what I’m used to, this is terribly confusing, this doesn’t feel right, this is uncomfortable. Heck, I feel this way sometimes and I’m 24 years old.
But this type of thought process lends itself to criticizing an entire generation, with supremely broad strokes, just like Socrates did in 500 BC and some random woman named Marie Corelli did in 1905. And of course the cycle continues to play itself out today.
I loved this exchange from an episode of Louie a few weeks ago:
24 year old: Do you want your kids’ world to be a step above yours? Isn’t that what we’re all doing?
Louis CK: Sure.
24 year old: So, doesn’t it follow that if you’re a good parent and your kids evolve and are smarter than you, they’re gonna make you feel kind of dumb?
Louis CK: Yeah, yeah, I guess so.
24 year old: So if you feel stupid around young people, things are going good!
Whenever I see some writer or TV talking head complain about this generation, my immediate reaction is a cringe. I feel embarrassed for them and wouldn’t want to come off that way myself. I think it’s important to stand up for people, not tear them down.
And then I sing The Who.
People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
That was written 50 years ago.
IN CONCLUSION … I think it is good to be optimistic, I think it has never been in your advantage to discount the generation that comes after you, I think the world will be OK. Like always, humans will figure out a way to survive. We’ll be fine.