Millennials are made to feel ashamed. For what? Having the gall to enter adulthood in an economy and world prior generations ruined? That’s their shame, not ours.
There’s been an article going around about how Millennials born in the 80s are different from those born in the 90s. Sure, there are going to be differences, but Anna Garvey’s Why ’80s Babies Are Different Than Other Millennials follows a recent trend of older Millennials throwing younger Millennials under the bus for being corrupted by social media and a lack of attention.
What does the article use to accomplish this? Our familiarity with certain cultural mores like Oregon Trail, Third Eye Blind, and Napster.
The Millennial generation isn’t defined through the access to technology we’ve had any more than any other generation is. We’re defined by the political climate into which we’ve entered adulthood and the role we see ourselves playing in the world. Those attributes have remained largely consistent whether you were born in 1983 or 1995.
Is it more important we played Oregon Trail or is it more important those born in the 80s and 90s both share a special relationship to 9/11 and how it’s reshaped our culture? Is it more important we listened to Third Eye Blind, or we’re the first generation to enter adulthood free of the Cold War and under the War on Terrorism? Is it more important we used dial-up, or more important both 80s and 90s children encounter the same awful, part-time, service-based economy when we search for our first jobs?
We are the most educated generation in history and with the corporatization of higher education, we will probably stay that way until we die. We’re the only generation to go through grade school with a priority on environmental awareness, after it was pushed into curricula in the late 70s and before it was killed in the 00s.
Whatever tech gaps there are in the kind of video games we play, that hardly defines us. Being parented a certain way (that’s now harshly criticized for making us too “sensitive”) defines us. Being raised to see our role in a specific relation to a declining natural world defines us. Video games and social media are incidental and we don’t do ourselves any favors when we use those things to create our self-definitions. I don’t think anyone takes us seriously when we say, “Well, we could be defined by how we relate to a crucial era in history, but instead we’re going to define ourselves by our dependency on AOL.”
Generational gaps are intentionally broad brushes that don’t stay inside the lines. We’re Millennials, and I’m sick of watching us bash ourselves or separate ourselves, rather than embracing the tag and redefining it. We read more and seek out news from more sources, we give to charity more, we’re less materialistic, we prioritize social and environmental awareness more highly than other generations and we trust the political process less; that makes me closer to someone born 10 years later than using Hotmail when they use Gmail or remembering the mess that was MySpace when their first social network was Facebook.
Articles like Garvey’s play into the media narrative that Millennials should be dissatisfied with ourselves because of the economy and the world we stepped into. Sorry, but our generation’s average age when we invaded Iraq was 13 and our average age during the housing bubble collapse was 17. These articles play into Millennial-bashing by separating ourselves out and pretending we’re not part of a generation that is actually pretty amazing. They play to media narratives created by the Baby Boomers who wasted their chance and left us a broken system.
It’s a way for older Millennials to disown their participation in a generation rather than retake it. It’s the lazy way out, and it throws younger Millennials under the bus the same way the Boomers do, so we can throw our hands in the air and disregard the responsibilities we have to fix everything prior generations ruined.
Prior generations kicked the can down the road on the environment, energy, responsible government, military industrialization, and they lost control of the improvement of civil rights. The definition of our generation is we’re the ones they kicked the can to. Why would we want to separate ourselves from younger Millennials just to be like the generations that came before us? To kick the can down the road even more? That’s what we aspire to?
I’m proud to be a Millennial. We were raised to believe we could do anything, and then we had everything we could do sold out from under us. That defines us more than the speed of our internet. If there’s one generation I want to be a part of, it is this one.
I don’t care if Boomers and older generations on TV use “Millennial” as a bad word. That’s their damn problem. Our generation’s job is not to please Wolf Blitzer and Bill O’Reilly. Our generation’s job to tell them to get the hell out of the way cause we’ve got shit to do.
The world we entered, the economy we entered, the frozen politics we entered, and the collapsing environment we entered upon becoming adults are not our fault. Let’s please stop feeling like it is.
Other generations have done admirable things, but they haven’t always finished them. Let those generations laud themselves, but do not let them tear down our own potential and do not let them convince us that we should tear it down for them.
We didn’t enter ourselves into decades of intractable war. We didn’t collapse our economy. We didn’t ignore environmental warnings about pollution, climate change, and water shortages. And yet, it’s on us to fix it. It is not our fault, but it is now our responsibility.
My generation believes it’s awful – it keeps trying to run away from itself because everyone else keeps telling us to. And yet everything about us – every study and poll and piece of research – says we’re a unique aberration of education, drive, and idealism. Whether born in the 80s or 90s, we also have technology at our grasp no generation before us has been raised from childhood to utilize.
We have so much potential. Stop trying to convince us we don’t. With everything at stake, the most dangerous thing that can happen is you succeed.