Millennials are a big topic these days; the so-called 'Gen Y' or 'Me-Generation' and their entitled, shallow, and narcissistic behaviour. But are the teenagers and young adults these days really so irresponsible and aimless? Not to mention, who and what even is a 'millennial?'
Who or what is a millennial?
Teenagers and young adults born in the years from 1980 to 2000, that is the most common definition of who millennials are that you will find. The same goes for the Me-Generation or Gen Y. Although, the more you search the more confusing it gets. Wikipedia will try to tell you that the Me-Generation is actually a word used in the 1970s, on the website of Independent you can read the Pew Research Centre announced that millennials are people born from 1981-1996.
However confusing the numbers, it is the characteristics that they all have in common. Wherever you look, everyone describes them as lazy, shallow, selfish, aimless, fame-obsessed, irresponsible, materialistic and addicted to their technology—especially their laptops and mobile phones. Apparently, they are full of themselves, all-knowing, respectless when it comes to older people and completely oblivious to politics and the world around them—though, those are the thing most people rather say out loud instead of writing them down.
Is it true that millennials are entitled?
What does 'entitled' even mean? According to a common dictionary, it means to be convinced of one's own righteousness or the justifiability of one's actions or status, especially wrongly so, demanding or pretentious.
This is the point where I will speak up, dear Reader. I confess—I am a millennial. And to answer the question: Yes.
You might be surprised, but the answer is yes. We are selfish, aimless, materialistic, and addicted to our technological devices. Of course, there are always some exceptions but generally speaking: yes. It is true.
Yet, the important question is: Why are we that way?
Why do millennials seem so selfish and shallow?
One of the reasons why the Me-Generation is so self-centred is they started to get so much attention since they were born. The well-known comedian John Mulaney put it into words in his show 'The Comeback Kid':
"I grew up before children were special; very early 80s, right before children became special. Like, I remember when milk carton kids became a thing. When they were like: 'Hey, we should start looking for some of these guys. I don't think they're just blowing off steam.' "
Today children get so much attention. Tons of different toys, pets and playmates, any dish they could think of, thousands of books to read and movies to watch and games to play, hours and hours of education and playtime, nannies and babysitters, a tutor for each class, extra courses like drama or art or after-school clubs, television and mobile phones—anything to keep them busy.
We are vain because we were raised with undivided attention. We are vain because we have to be. There is so much pressure put on us by society. The higher and more popular you go the madder it gets. Models and people on the cover of magazines, YouTubers and movie stars—everyone looks perfect: photoshopped and cropped, with the best makeup artists, the most expensive brands and stylists, it's natural that most of us try to keep up with them in some way.
In contrast, in real life, you get bullied and laughed at if you're just a little overweight or have birthmarks or dark circles under your eyes. I had friends who cut themselves because people bullied them for the hair the had on their arms?! I met a child who came crying to her mother because the kids at school made fun of her slightly more bushy eyebrows and because the facial hair above her lips was a little bit more visible than everyone else's. She was four years old.
Millennials act narcissistic due to the pressure of social media.
Millennials get over 70 percent of their news-input from television and the internet. Every day we see seemingly perfect people on television, on our phone screens and in magazines. Yet we don't realize that we often look up to and try to be like people who grew up in utterly different times and had completely different opportunities and circumstances to become who they are today. What we've learned is that, in the end, life is about performing. The comedian Bo Burnham couldn't have put it into better words:
"If I look at the young people... You know and I feel like... I was born in 1990 and I was sort of raised in America when it was a cult of self-expression. And I was just taught, you know, express myself and have things to say and everyone will care about them. And I think everyone was taught that and most of us found out that no one gives a shit what we think. So we flock to performers by the thousands 'cause we're the few that have found an audience. And then I'm supposed to get up here and say 'Follow your dreams' as if this is a meritocracy? It is not, okay? I had a privileged life and I got lucky—and I'm unhappy. They say it's like the 'me generation'. It's not. The arrogance is taught or it was cultivated. It's self-conscious. That what it is. It's conscious of self. Social media is just the market's answer to a generation that demanded to perform. So the market said: 'Here, perform everything to each other all the time for no reason.' "
Yes. The 'Generation Y' is on their mobile phones, a lot. Not only teenagers but also many adults and even children. I live in London and usually when I'm on the bus and there is a mother or a father with a child in the buggy that child is holding a mobile phone watching a movie or playing a game. No matter what age. And I think that's sad. I find myself reaching for my phone every free minute and it is bothering me. I know that I am very dependent on my phone and that I use it too much but it's a little like smoking or drinking or chocolate: why bother, in the end, you don't really want to do anything about it.
In fact, phones are a totally new and exciting thing! We might tend to forget that in our daily lives but thirty years ago we wouldn't have had anything even close to what we have today. How are we supposed to know everything about how to consume it? Only roughly eighty years ago we tested atomic bombs in the desert and no one knew they were radioactive and no one really bothered until they saw the destruction caused by it. That's where we are at the moment: we just started to realize that phones and computers hurt our eyes, mess with our sleeping patterns and social behaviour and are addictive. A few hundred years ago we didn't have cars or planes but these days it's a totally normal thing—that's how it is with phones. We are trying to solve the problems that come up, we try to improve everything. Yet today everything just moves too fast.
Why is the Me Generation so oblivious and politically uninterested?
Yes, most of us ignore the outside world. Others try to save it, make it better, change it, fight it. Take a closer look: the world out there is ugly and aggressive and rough and dangerous. It has always been like this but thanks to our good connection nowadays we see all of it, all the time. We get confronted with it so much that eventually we just go numb. There has always been corruption, rape, drugs, crime, hate, racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, cruelty, violence, war, death, all these bad things—it's just that these days the news tend to press it right into our faces. And that's depressing and uncomfortable. Is it really so surprising that we go numb and turn ourselves away from what's happening? Often we have so many problems to face in our daily lives that we just don't have any strength left to deal with the world out there as well.
We strive for so much and yet receive almost nothing. We're looking for love and all we get is rape and one-night stands from Tinder. We're looking for friendship and all we get is shallow conversations on WhatsApp and emojis. We're looking for a satisfying job and all we get is low wages, mean bosses and horrendous working times. We're looking for a happy family and all we get is teenage suicide and domestic abuse. We're looking for education and all we get is horrible teachers, unbearable anxiety and pressure, mobbing and bullying, unfair tests and homework concerning things that no one will ever need. We're looking for respect and all we get is nagging old people and disrespectful children.
Believe me, we try to fix the world - but we are just so busy trying to fix our own lives.
Then again, was the world ever fixed somehow? Looking back in history we, we humans, always screwed up in some way.
We are just children of our time. Like you were a child of your time. And our children are going to be children of theirs.
We're learning, we're growing, we're only about to figure out how everything works. We're new on this earth and there is so much to catch up on, and we're trying our best. So, please, be understanding and be patient with us.