The Short-Sighted Criticisms Of Millennials


If I hear one more story about or see one more nonsense piece about millennials, I’m going to resign my literacy. Seriously, I’m going to give up and watch silent movies until this term, and it’s attendant self-righteous fuckery vanishes.

Criticism of millennials has become the refuge of every monthly magazine without a cover story, every opinion columnist who’s had a slow day, and every person reaching the threshold of age where people under thirty start to annoy them.

There are consistent tropes in pieces like this, they usually focus on the narcissism of millennials, on their political sensitivities, they are the offended generation, the ‘me’ generation; disloyal, lazy and self-obsessed. In the rare instances that these accusations are supported by data, it is almost always devoid of context or explanation, concluding that these trends are simply by-products of some innate millennial-ness, of a generation too spoiled and sheltered to be serious. When there is no data, there is always an anecdote, some person’s twitter tirade against a prospective employer, a horror story about a young person unwilling to work hard for their success. It’s all bunk.

I’m here to say definitively that there is no millennial. Grouping a generation and ascribing it characteristics feels good for older generations and so we keep doing it. It feels taxonomically good. We can categorize it and remember the times in a concise way. We can think about flower power, we can think about gritting your teeth a jumping out of an airplane, we can think about big hair and cocaine – but these snapshots give us nothing of reality. There have never been millennials, nor were there Gen. Xers, nor were there Baby Boomers, nor was there a greatest generation before them.

There were clusters of population growth, sure. Trends changed with an evolving society, but to lay the times at the feet of people who happen to be born in a 20 to 30-year span is sociological laziness. It is drug store economics. It is armchair psychology. It is, ultimately, damaging.

Here are three generational myths about millennials I can’t stand, and why they are bullshit.

They Are The Most Narcissistic Generation Ever

I’m pretty sure people have been saying this one since we started grinding lenses into mirrors. Due to the proliferation of social media, it is now more simple to catalog the narcissistic behavior of any given individual. Make a laundry list of selfies or statuses on any major platform, and the evidence can seem damning, surely these people are self-obsessed. However, are they any different from the folks that Time Magazine declared “The Me Generation” in 1976? Are they so different from the generation that let banking get so far out of control for individual gain that it almost collapsed the global market? Are they more narcissistic than those who started foxtrotting and invented the personal photograph in 1920? Or those who commissioned portraits before them? Those who had busts made before that? Narcissism is not a new phenomenon, it just so happens that people now have resources like never before to plumb its depths. But the notion that this makes the current generation more narcissistic is laughable.

Some sources point to data that says a millennial is three times more likely to be ‘extremely narcissistic’ than a baby boomer. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a young person in any time who is more humble than someone near retirement. In fact, the University of Illinois corroborated this notion in 2010, finding that age was the primary determinant of narcissistic behavior, the conclusion of the study reading that “every generation is generation me.”

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