“The only jobs for twentysomethings are either in hyrdraulic fracturing or are unpaid internships”
“Instagram has turned entitled American millennials into lazy, disaffected cyborgs”
These are just some of the thousands of hyperbolic, overwrought, doomsday-predicting headlines which have been written about our generation of new adults in the last few years. Every time a media outlet needs to put a human face on the poor economy or the way technology has changed American life, they turn to a poor, down-on-their-luck, internet addicted twentysomething and make them an example of how shitty things are for the average new adult. They’ll write that our echo-boom generation, technically the children of the children of the 60s, were over-nurtured, over-protected and told by our parents/teachers/society that we were special too many times and now we’re entitled, lazy and unable to work to make something of ourselves. Perhaps our punishment for our nurturing parents is being told, daily, by every online news portal/cable news channel/newspaper imaginable that in reality, we’re actually shit.
To be fair, there are some generational circumstances that do lend themselves to news stories. Unemployment is high, partly because of the great recession (which I REFUSE to capitalize, thank you very much, NY Times editors), but also because we used to make things in America, damn it. College has never been more expensive and a bunch of us made a huge mistake in terms of taking on tens of thousands of dollars in loans. Whoops. Finally, we all live on the internet, which has alternately made us more connected, less connected, happier, sadder, fatter, more active, lonelier, AND more engaged with the world.
But just because these things are happening, that doesn’t mean every new study that comes out about the size of American student debt or the fact that some tattooed twentysomething got laid off and started a food cart, should be a newspeg to condemn an entire generation for having a worthless disposition (or just a disadvantaged set of economic circumstances). However, it’s become a forgone conclusion that our generation will be poorer, dumber and fatter than the generation before us. And no journalist or cultural critic stops to thing about whether this assumption is actually true, and that, to me, is the definition of hack.
Now, I should definitely acknowledge that I’ve certainly founnd myself writing about our generation, from the perspective that this generation of North American millennials is a special kind of fucked. However, when I’ve take that stance, it has been from my own experience, not from a new social study or the half-baked conclusions of some Huffington Post columnist. Also, I’m coming to think that talking about “generations” should be left to demographers and any conclusions about them can’t really be arrived at until their time has come and gone. And whose to say a generation should be defined by the average? The average member of the so-called “Greatest Generation” was an illiterate, racist, sexist jerk with shitty teeth. But we remember that generation fondly because the best of them were Jackie Robinson, Lenny Bruce and Walter Kronkite.
So with that said, my message to the Thoughtarazzi(™), when writing about new adults let’s not make conclusions or generalizations about trends. You don’t actually know, and you haven’t taken any time to consider whether the conventional wisdom is actually correct. And people say my generation is lazy.
Henry Goldman is founder of yr an adult, and is getting all indignant.