In Defense of Millennials: A Sociological Explanation
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There have been innumerable pieces dedicated towards labeling the millennial generation with negative qualities. The generation is usually targeted with the following complaints:
I think these arguments have been poorly constructed. They’re often more symptomatic of a fear of what is new. I will explore these four critiques and offer what about them actually makes millennials an interesting, unique and a positive generation. One that is capable of making changes to the world around them.
- Narcissistic: In Defense of the Selfie
There is the supposition that millennials are narcissists, self-obsessed enough to post pictures of themselves, about the minutiae of their activities, and endlessly seeking to accrue “likes” from others. What’s not talked about is the possibility of radical self-affirmation that millennial are exploring through the internet as a medium. Yes, social media prompts us to document ourselves. Why is this so bad? In a sense, sharing ourselves, our interests, our activities, our feelings, and our image enables new possibilities for individuals to create community. Considering that adolescents (particularly women) are likely to suffer from lower self-esteem, one’s choice to explore their own self-image, to craft how we see our selves and project this to others, as well as affirm our friends’ and family’s own projected selves offers a new type of self-authorship. When a friend posts a picture of themselves, has a moment of positivity towards their own appearance, and when others lend support to this, I find it difficult to find that insidious, selfish, or terrible.
- Entitled: In Defense of Our Work
Millennials are supposedly lazy. Older generations accuse them of being non-self-starters, unable to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and find jobs in a job market that is not flourishing or receptive to a new generation attempting to move in. But considering how many millennials move into the job market only to find themselves taking unpaid internships, jobs bellow their skill level, or flatly unemployable says more about our society than it does our generation. There are social forces at work, and the naivety of assuming self-reliance is outdated, narrow minded, and socially unaware.
- Apathetic: In Defense of Our Efforts
Millennials are not apathetic. Our engagement with the Internet has opened us up to new ideas. That social movements like #BlackLivesMatter have taken off on the much derided social medium of twitter is symptomatic of something entirely different. Our generation has participated in new social movements, ones that are entirely contingent on the utilization of new technology. To discount it is to discount the work of many millennial activists who have been doing work to make the world better and kinder.
- Immature: In Defense of Our Potential
There is a type of binary thinking that is applied to younger generations. If they watch silly Reality TV Shows and do silly dances, isn’t it a sign that behind it all they’re really immature? Unable to grow up? I think this is a profound generalization. Pop culture has always had disposable, and easily derided aspects of it gives older generations the impression that the world is burning. But to view our collective interest in Kim Kardashian as symptomatic of a deep cultural malaise is incredibly cynical. Is it somehow not possible, are we not able to have the perspective to view pop culture as non-specific to millennials? Pop culture has constantly been derided by older generations who find themselves lost in today’s world. The good news? This has happened for time immemorial for generation upon generation. We will not go down in history for the ephemeral aesthetics, the fashion trends or other minute details. Millennials have more potential than that, more heart than they’re given credit for and have the ability to make changes using the technology they’re so seamlessly integrated in.
In summation, it’s easy to write off an entire generation for aspects that are trivial. It’s much harder to explore the positive side: to see millennials as possessing unique capabilities and harnessing them for good, or to see a group of marginalized people taking charge of their narratives via the much dismissed “social network” sites that are more opportunity than calamity. Millennials have so much to bring to the table, and it’s time for us as a culture to take stock of that.
“Why You Shouldn’t Ignore The Millennial Generation” in Huffington Post
“Why You Can’t Ignore Millennials” in Forbes Magazine