Why The Millennials are Amazing: A Response to Joel Stein’s “The Me Me Me Generation”
By Lindsey Bartlett
My generation gets a lot of grief. We sit idly by as people argue semantics about our laziness, narcissus, and jaded lives, while being rarely in a position to fight back. I’m here to argue for the Millennials and youth all over the Western world. What older generations call “lazy”, I call learned human behavior hundreds of years in the making. These are the children that extremely fast advancements in technology have produced. This is the finish line of the 21st century. In order to move ahead, those who find themselves in the limiting pigeon hole of “Generation Y” must recoil away from the harmful practices that their culture instilled. It is unfair to blame the younger generation for their means and the accessibility of technology. It is equally unfair to claim narcissus is limited to Gen Yers.
People are self-involved no matter what age you are in this country. Perhaps we are all just suffering from post-modern aftershock, desperately looking for an identity to cling on to. Twenty-somethings spanning history have encountered this existential dilemma. The only difference? The Internet wasn’t around to keep tabs and make an historical account on their self-absorption like there is now. Back then, you had to paint your own selfies.
I found this most recent cover article of Time magazine written by Joel Stein mind blowingly oversimplified. He begins with a disclaimer, for me the point in which I wanted to stop reading, claiming:
I am about to do what old people have done throughout history: call those younger than me lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow. But I have studies! I have statistics! I have quotes from respected academics! Unlike my parents, my grandparents and my great-grandparents, I have proof.
You nailed it. You are old. Congratulations. Stein goes on to explain this proof as the level of narcissistic personality disorder in youth is three times higher than those ages 65 or older. He continues to argue that we are all a bunch of fame obsessed Liberal Arts majors who would rather sit in our parents basement than actually work hard and acquire our own lives. I don’t buy it. Is it just me or is Stein disregarding facts about the generation that raised us? Whatever I am, you made me.
Millennials offer so much more than the negative stereotype being broadcast into the world. There are endless negative assumptions that come along with being raised in a technological era. Technological literacy is more complex than other literacy measurements of the past. There is a point to using laptops, tablets and smartphones. I believe we are learning how to use these forms of technology as proficiently as possible. Generation Yers are being trained to work with technology that doesn’t even exist yet.
It is ironic that I see in my peers more than the older generations a growing movement away from technology. We are the “cool kids”, the trendsetting age demographic of 13-25. Millennials abandoned Myspace and are doing the same with Facebook. I know more college students who have decided social media is a time consuming mess than adults, some of which are just now grasping the internet and social media. My mom spends more time on Facebook than I do. I am this close to deleting the whole thing, not because I don’t want to keep in touch with people, but because I am able to see the damaging effects on quality of life.
Those who criticize my generation are constantly overlooking the positive characteristics that we are bringing to the world. In an existential way, perhaps because we are self-involved, we are also the most civil rights progressive generation that has ever lived. Gay rights, gender equality, racial equality, differences in class and lifestyle, all of these huge civil rights issues will soon be non-existent. We care about ourselves and want others to do the same. Do you. Along with the demons of narcissism, we see the angels of acceptance and coexistence. This is amazing and something that mankind has been working towards for thousands of years.
Another amazing characteristic that is growing in my generation is the number of volunteer workers. There are more kids my age involved in charities, non-profits, and other goodwill organizations than ever before. Over 63% of Millennials had participated or volunteered in a non-profit organization in 2012 according to a recent study. Several of my fellow CSU alumnus have even started their own non-profit organizations. I have spent over 25 hours this year, not for a resume, not for my own self satisfaction, but because I care about doing meaningful work. A huge amount of generation Yers feel the same. It has become less about money and more about the meaning that your life brings to others.
It is because of these positive characteristics looking at the large scale Millennial population that I am hesitant to agree with Stein, my mom, and the other boomers that attempt to minimize us. Thanks for the iPhones, now please don’t hold our extremely heightened sense of technological literacy over our heads. We will grow up and out of the narcissistic mindset because, hey, weren’t we all at one point obsessed with defining ourselves? Creating our identity in this vast, complex world? And if the means such as social media, iPhones, and blogs had been available to every generation, then wouldn’t historical records have deemed your grandmother equally narcissistic?
The answer is: Yes. Duh. What Stein does not want you to know is how much impact Generation Y could really have on the world. We are 80 million plus, even larger than the Baby Boomer generation. The collective mindset of our values will one day be at the forefront of culture and American politics. I have immeasurable faith in my peers and myself, regardless of negative stereotypes. Generation Y has inherited a world with many enormous global and cultural issues, narcissism being the least of our problems.