Apparently some people don’t realize that the “Millennial” generation encompasses pretty much everyone born from 1980-2000.
I was born in 1980 and according to Wikipedia I'm a millennial?
THOSE THINKPIECES WERE ABOUT *ME*?https://t.co/SdflIVDWvu
— Ryan North (@ryanqnorth) August 22, 2016
While I might shave off a few years on either side of that definition, one of my biggest pet peeves is when Millennials badmouth Millennials in the third person, because they don’t realize that they themselves are Millennials. For example, I was at a career fair and getting lunch with some of the other recruiters — all of whom were under 30, including all but two under 25 — and this guy starts off the conversation with, “Man recruiting these Millennials, amiright? It’s like all they care about is what you can do for them.” We gave him an inquisitive stare, and he responded with, “What? You remember how it was in our day, we were all ‘what can we do for you,’ y’know?” So I asked him how old he was. He was 28. This was two years ago. He was a Millennial. He didn’t find that hilarious. I did.
Of course, being born in 19871, I am a Millennial, and that will not stop me from railing against my own kind. We, as a generation, are really into ourselves2, and of the many criticisms that have been thrown at us, self-congratulation is probably one of the fairest. We are the generation who invented participation trophies3, and the “like” button 4.
And to be clear, I’m against all of it. I vividly remember in fourth grade at our end of year awards ceremony, when a third of the class got something called the “Technology Award,” and I realized that it was the third of the class who didn’t get any other awards. I was shocked. I was appalled. I thought the recipients would want to know that they had sham awards5, but I wasn’t sure how to break it to them; my mom told me not to, so I didn’t. And today I have friends! Thanks, Mom!
Today, when I look around, where other people see “Generation Why?” or “The Me Generation,” I see the cumulative effects of over-recognition manifest in the Circle Jerk Generation6. What I mean by this is the mutually reinforcing cycle of engagement with content on social media. Those italicized words are indicative of the buzzwordification of (and associated substitution for) concepts that ought to contain actual meaning. Where I might legitimately think that someone has done an excellent job or created tangible value, I would have to know the person in order to communicate this to them. However, someone can produce content on social media that is highly (and measurably) engaging — even if it is of no value at all7. In exchange for your congratulations and recognition at their grand feat, they offer their engagement, through likes and comments and shares, and if I like your post will you like mine, oooh just comment on this right here — yeah yeah now like that post like it so hard — ooh yeah your content is great let me like that right there for you yeah you like that?
But if I think my generation is bad, man is the next one worse. Did you know that teenagers don’t have sex anymore, they just like things on social media? Did you know that while our generation had burn books, the mean girls of today are not liking your selfie on Instagram even if you like theirs8? Did you know that all of the problems of this generation are worse in the next one???
Which is why another, greater pet peeve of mine is when people from previous generations badmouth our generation, because remember how annoying it was when the generation before you did that to you? There’s a (Gen-X) trainer at my gym, and he’s always ragging on Millennials — “You’re all working so hard today, and what are those Millennials out there doing?” I shaved my beard in March, and he commented on how young I suddenly looked. I told him I’m 28, and I swear to god he said that I “don’t act like a Millennial.” Yeah, and you’re not high as a kite and wandering aimlessly through your cynical post-Ridgemont High life, what a goddamn miracle. Sure, my generation lives disproportionately with its parents, but then, so did yours. Remember when loud music and video games and recreational drug use were going to melt your brains and make you dysfunctional subhumans? Thanks to the Internet, surviving ’80s references, and older cousins, I do!
But wait, there’s more! Sure, the Boomers ragged on your generation really hard, but what about them? Oh, that’s right — they were a bunch of juvenile delinquents who were being led astray by comic books and Elvis Presley, of all things. Remember all of the crazy progressive things they did in the ’60s, like peaceful protests in favor of civil rights, women’s equality, and ending the wildly, incredibly pointless and wasteful war in Vietnam? Remember when the Greatest Generation declared that they were a colossal disappointment for not doing their duty and maintaining the status quo? How thoroughly selfish of them. And don’t even get me started on jazz — what did the Lost Generation think that was doing to the Greatest?
Yeah, so it turns out that pretty much everyone thinks that the generation after them is a total selfish wreck about to doom the world, but that’s not the case. At least, so far — and I would wager our generation, and the generation thereafter, and the one after that, etc. etc. will turn out OK too, no matter how selfish and doomed they may appear to be right now.
You know why? Because eventually they’ll have kids. Everyone talks about what a total life-changing event having kids is9, how it makes you completely reorient your life around that of another human being in a way that, for example, simply being married does not. And of course your kids are your legacy, so you’ll do anything to give them a leg up in this world. For instance, you might tell them that they’re special, that they’re smart and wonderful and deserve praise — you might even give them the Technology Award or like their post on Instagram or give them a participation trophy so they feel good about themselves.
So while each successive generation will be fine in the end, they will start off as total self-absorbed screw-ups, largely thanks to their parents. All I’m saying is, let’s just keep in mind that they’ll be fine while we judge them loudly for their mind-boggling iniquity in the meantime.
- Go Weevils! ↩
- Both individually and collectively; for instance, right now you, who are probably a Millennial, are reading a post by a Millennial about Millennials. ↩
- Spoiler alert — no we didn’t, our parents invented that for us, thanks Boomers ↩
- JK Bret Taylor was born in ’79 — he’s a Gen-Xer ↩
- That’s right, they had sham awards, but I got a real one. I’m a winner. ↩
- “How crass!” you object, “I’m offended!” Well isn’t that very Millennial of you. ↩
- Hahahaha it’s like I lack ANY self-awareness ↩
- I saw this article somewhere several months ago and cannot find it, and after enough googling of “Middle school girls Instagram” I realized I am on several watch lists and decided to stop trying before I end up in a cell with Jared from Subway. ↩
- I, mercifully, have yet to have any… that I know of… ↩