Everyone hates millenials. The word is virtually everywhere. It dominates research and cultural discourse. It has inspired countless articles, appearing in publications from Macleans to Rolling Stone – or, more likely – you find an op-ed online about them (I read a lot of them while writing this piece, and I’ll be happy to never read one again). Even millenials hate millenials: according to Pew Research, only 40% of millenials would even call themselves millenials, mostly begrudgingly. The New York Post published this article a few months ago, an exhausting piece detailing the writer’s hatred of everything from 90’s nostalgia to Instagram filters, and anything else fun people our age enjoy.
I am definitely one of these author’s loathsome millenials: I take selfies (oh god! So did Allen Ginsberg), I prefer online to real life dating (more on that in a future blog post) and I text and snapchat more than I call.
(Look at that! Selfie king and winner of the Lifetime Literary Achievement award. Ugh! Kids these days.)
Millenials are characterized by more than their social media obsession and alleged narcissism: there’s also the constant stream of comments on our work ethic, sensitivity and laziness. What many of these authors fail to notice is that many of the things millenials are criticized for are actually created by the environment, economy and culture we were born in to, not the one we created. We grew up during the time of Columbine and 9/11, we were teenagers during the 2008 recession and the rise of the social media, and we’re now launching careers and navigating the post-college life in one of the worst economic downturns in recent history. (Sceptical? The White House published a report on the economic conditions of millenials)
When other 20- and 30-somethings fire back at what older adults are writing about us, it’s more often to say “I’m not like them!”, when I think it would be more beneficial to talk about harnessing millenial’s collective strength. We are building communities online where there were not communities before; our peers are using the very social media we are demonized for to organize and promote radical politics. Why would I deny that I am part of such a generation, one taking steps towards a new political landscape?
I’m not saying we’re perfect by any stretch. Despite our organizing, we have low voter turn out and we’re weirdly terrified of telephone calls. Every generation has flaws and strengths shaped by the times they were raised in.
I cannot change that I was born in the early 90’s, or that the constant presence of violence in the 90’s and early 00’s coloured my perception of the world. And older generations wonder why we’re so anxious! I don’t want to pin the problems of this generation on the parents who raised us in homes with computers and TVs or the teachers who negotiated the awkwardness of explaining the events of 9/11 to children. A lot has gone in the 22 (nearing 23) years I have been alive, and there have been great shifts in technology, culture, economics and politics in that time.
And all this is exciting to me! We are comfortable negotiating constantly changing online and technological worlds, we have more access to information and we have incredible opportunities to be politically engaged.
This is why I love being a millenial. We are coming of age (we have come of age) in a rapidly changing world that we have the opportunity to shape if we acknowledge it. And I’m pretty excited to show the world we aren’t as entitled and narcissistic as NPR wants you to believe.
I know we’re broke and neurotic and a lot you are reading this from the couch at your parent’s house. We’re a little cynical and a little bit hopeful too. I feel that way, too. It’s like we’re barely treading water when we’re expected to be swimming. But what an exciting place to grow from. We’re in the perfect spot to become greater; to learn to swim in choppy waters, and become better swimmers than anyone expected.
Maybe I’m more hopeful than cynical, but at least that makes me a little more interesting than the Boomers writing about us.