The clock ticked slowly as the eyelids drooped on the other college-aged students surrounding me. The instructor, a gentlemen with a gravelly voice and liver spots on every exposed patch of skin, paused and asked, “Now let me ask you all a question.” Many of the ears in the room perked up, curious as to what this man could ask, when for the past 30 minutes, he was rambling about the importance of rubber plantations in the Belgian Congo Free State.
“The forced overtaking of an indigenous people by a stronger, industrial people to use the land, resources, and labor of those people… now does this sound like a good idea to you?”
We stared at him blankly. Of course it did not sound like a good idea. Who would think that?
“Nobody thinks this is a good idea?” Again, he was met with silence.
“Now, a hundred, fifty, even twenty years ago, people would have mostly agreed that this was a good thing,” he shook his head. “I guess its a new generation.”
To most students, this may have seemed like just another lecture where the instructor is just trying to get us think of something, anything, related to their class. But to me, and likely several of my classmates, this moment symbolized the attitude that sets the millennial generation apart from those before us. While the millennial generation is subjected to a constant barrage of criticism from the generations preceding us, this shows that we are merely trying to survive in an unacceptable world that previous generations created.
The reason mentioned above is only one of many reasons the millennial generation is an anomaly. The millennial generation was born in the midst of a technical revolution. Therefore, we are the most technologically adept. We have never been exposed to a world segregated by intense social boundaries, or subject to the control of media from only one or a select few local or regional sources. Information about anything and any kind of people is available to the millennial generation, and always has been. We have been born with the opportunity to learn and lead a life in a way that no generation before us ever could.
Millennials are also extremely ambitious. According to a 2010 Pew Research Center survey, more millennials are pursuing higher education than Generation X, showing that they are more ambitious, as well as becoming more educated.
Millennials, as a whole, seem to hold an idiosyncratic set of values, as evident by the imperialism anecdote mentioned earlier. Our parents, and our parents’ parents, were brought up to accept, and even support in some cases, various forms of inequality among the United States’ diverse population. Has any generation before ours rallied so passionately for equal pay between men and women, marriage equality, and an end to systemic discrimination of peoples of color. Widely, Generation Y does not support values like racism, imperialism, sexism, and others that are deemed “normal” or even celebrated by the generations before us.
However, despite the fact masses of millennials are working together to make a positive change in the world, most of the media coverage referring to millennials only paints us as “entitled” and “lazy”. Why are we criticized for merely acting as a product of the world that was shaped and molded around us?
While it is undeniable that some of the millennials certainly do act entitled, lazy, and glued to their smartphones, I firmly believe this is a gross stereotype that exists solely for the purpose of having a scapegoat.
How is it fair to complain that I am an entitled young adult, when, growing up, I got a ribbon for being able to blow my nose? Millennials grew up in the age of participation ribbons, No Child Left Behind, and political correctness. No wonder we think we are entitled, we grew up with the mindset that no matter how hard we try, we will receive compensation in one form or another. Due to this idea being reinforced time and time again throughout development, it is easy to understand why the millennial generation can be characterized this way. However, does that mean this is our fault? No. We did not condition ourselves to fall to this mindset.
The characteristic that seems to represent the millennial generation most “accurately” in the eyes of Generation X and Baby Boomers appears to be laziness. Millennials are lazy, do not like to do things, do not like to go outside, do not like to apply themselves, according to the media. However, if one simply takes a look around, millennials are quite the opposite. As mentioned earlier, more millennials are attending college than any generations before this one. And addressing the phenomenon of millennial laziness, is it not the generation before us that was continually creating infinite methods for making life easier through technology, and we have grown up with this technological goal for as long as we can remember. It was ingrained into our youth, our classrooms, and grew as we did. How can we not be conceived as “lazier” than previous generations, when previous generations have developed smartphones, and even the electric can opener. No shit we’re “lazy”. People have continuously strived for ways to let people spend less time working, and more time to spend enjoying leisure activities.
Above all, millennials are literally just trying to survive and change the topsy-turvy world that the Baby Boomers and Generation X created. We are the products of corporate greed, imperialistic notions, and justifications of inequality. Criticisms of the media prefer to deny that millennials truly are the future, the innovators, and largely the change that the world needs to see.