The first result of a Google search for “millennial generation” is a Wikipedia article. The second result is a statistical analysis of Generation Y’s marital status and participation in the workforce. Three results in, however, I reach the crux of the matter in a Baltimore Sun piece: “Ten Personality Traits of the Millennial Generation.”
This article expounds a sentiment that bludgeons me and my generation as much as praise enlivens us; each of the ten traits is a grievance, their collection a jeremiad and each one somehow expresses the anxiety that technological advancement has corrupted us, stripped us of our virtues and made us unfeeling androids bent on comfort at the cost of character. The first trait is impatience; the second is inattention; the third is childishness. The fourth is the boldest and would be clinically diagnosed by first-year psychology majors as “Dissociative Identity Disorder.”
Unfortunately, The Baltimore Sun has not gone rogue; their opinion on the matter is actually quite widespread. Forbes ran a similar article entitled, “Leading the ‘Lazy’ Generation,” and
The Huffington Post ran the headline, “The Millennial Gen- eration: Money Obsessed and Less Concerned with Giving Back.” Some kind of hysteria has gripped the younger Baby Boomers and the older elements of Generation X, blinding them all to the familiar positives of our generation (ambition, energy and vision) and giving them visions of a forest erupting in flames after we predictably drop the torch they must pass us.
Fortunately, my education at UCSB has given me some perspective, and it is crystal clear that these concerns are part of a long history of unease during generational transition. Still, what slightly disturbs me is the idea that the folly of generational anxiety is long-established. How many times have we derided the stereotypical old man and his lamentation, “Kids these days!” There were anxieties about moral corruption of youths in the twenties (with their jazz), the fifties (with their rock music), the sixties (with their long hair) and so on — the point being that this anxiety is eternal, intrinsically human and equally ungrounded in each installment. Our parents seem to hide behind the unprecedented pace of
technological advancement. They are well-acquainted with the tension of generational transition (just listen to certain lyrics in Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin’”), and yet they claim their concerns are justified — the internet has made their children zombies unfit to take over the reins.
Like all other renditions of this ancient tradition, our elders are acting irrationally. Our generation is no better or worse equipped to maintain the world than theirs was. We are simply differently equipped to maintain a different world.
I hope that my generation does not err accordingly and that we recognize the anxiety we feel about our children for what it is. We need to be less bellicose and more conservative than our parents and understand that human trends are re- peating; special catastrophes are unlikely. I have no doubt that one day I will feel certain resentment towards my children, who will surely grow up in a world quite different from the one that raised me. Nonetheless, I hope to ride that resentment out.
Benjamin Moss is a third-year English major.