Art by Peau Porotesano
It’s the most notorious buzzword of the past decade, the moniker of a generation that is simultaneously characterized as startlingly innovative and impossibly overindulged: Millennials. Maybe you’ve heard of them?
As the generation born between the early 1980s and 2000s, Millennials make up an overwhelming majority of Pepperdine’s student population. In fact, they make up an overwhelming amount of the U.S., too. According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2013 Millennials accounted for more than a quarter of the total population, making them the largest generation to date.
Even though my own membership in this generational club is undeniable, I often find myself opposed to the term if only for the stereotypes it carries along with it. Words like lazy, high-maintenance, unprofessional, technologically dependent, narcissistic and entitled are frequently heard.
I am tired of being told broad generalizations about my generation as if they are a foregone conclusion. Every generation in its coming-of-age stage has been dubbed the new worst generation of all time. In his book “The Salmon of Doubt,” author Douglas Adams describes this societal phenomenon: “Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary … Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”
Although his quote pertains specifically to technological advancements, it is applicable to generational advancements as well. Change always brings uncertainty, and people hate uncertainty, so let me clear it up.
An October 2014 report on Millennials released by the White House showed that Millennial high school seniors rated making a contribution to society and being community leaders as very important, far above prior generations. More Millennials are college-educated than any other generation, but we are entering a post-recession workforce with less economic recovery than any other age group, coupled with higher student loans. Despite this, we remain the most optimistic generation, with more than half reporting confidence in our ability to improve our standard of living.
Lazy? No, just trying find a little joy amidst our damaged economy. Entitled? No, just optimistically ambitious. Narcissistic? Well, maybe. But we’re young. After all, the Baby Boomers were the original “Me Generation” back in the ’70s, so I’m not going to fault Millennials for falling prey to our own crises of young adulthood.
It’s all about how you frame the situation, and in this case, I think it’s time that the older generations cut us some slack and accept that we’re here to stay, iPhones and all. Maybe if they’re nice, we’ll teach them how to use Twitter.
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