Lazy, selfish, narcissistic, entitled. You got it – millennials. It’s hard to open a magazine these days without seeing millennials being dubbed ‘The Me Me Me Generation’, without a washed-up celebrity insulting them without any evidence, without someone saying even millennials themselves think that they’re the lazy generation. But is there any truth to these claims? Are millennials really all that bad? Should they get up off their backsides, stop eating into Daddy’s money and go get proper bloody jobs? The layabouts…
To answer these questions, I talked to a few different people of various ages and backgrounds to find out what regular people thought of millennials, rather than relying on the sensationalist journalism of The Sun. I thought I’d start with a woman who knows much more than I do about, well, everything, and who was sure to make me feel better about myself and the rest of my generation: my mother. And thankfully, Mumma Alston doesn’t think we’re all self-obsessed narcissists – or at least, if we are, it’s not our fault:
“There’s so much pressure,” she told me, pausing mid-sentence when something particularly exciting happened in Maigret, “on the way you kids look these days. All those adverts and reality TV shows. It’s no wonder you’re all more worried about how you look. You can’t get away from it.” After her show finished, she did tell me that she thought we were more mollycoddled than other generations – but only because her generation had the money to mollycoddle us with. So it’s all your fault I’m such an entitled bastard. Thanks, Mum.
The next person I asked was my friend Brad, a millennial just like me. He’d seen a Simon Sinek video about millennials and leadership that was floating around Facebook for ages (in which he says that social media is as potent a drug as alcohol and that our generation sits on their phones all the time) and was very, very angry about it. I asked him why.
‘I dunno; I just think it’s so demonstrably stupid. It just isn’t true. There’s no evidence that this generation is lazier than any other.’ I asked him if he’d read an article on Sky which argues that the Etonian public schoolboys who helped themselves to bits of the British Empire were less entitled than millennials today. He had. It made him angrier. ‘I thought it was a piss-take. It’s just so self-evidently wrong. It’s a parody.’ While it does read like one, it unfortunately isn’t. And he’s right: there is no evidence we’re lazier, and perhaps more importantly, people have been saying this about all the generations that came before millennials.
Brad isn’t a millennial that thinks his generation are lazy, entitled etc., but judging by the number of my friends who shared the aforementioned Simon Sinek video, lots of us do. And it’s not only that, either: almost everyone I know shared a Huffington Post article that said we all think we’re ‘shiny unicorns on top of a flowery lawn’, or something. So why do so many of us think so negatively about our own generation?
Lots of these articles return to the idea that millennials are generally unhappy – and that’s true. Depression rates have been steadily increasing over the last hundred or so years. The rates of depression for those in their mid-twenties is roughly 25% – much higher than preceding generations, and a huge percentage in and of itself. However, after watching a talk from Dr Stephen Ilardi’s on depression (and reading his book), I discovered that it’s perhaps not because of a feeling that we are better than everyone else, but because of our lifestyle in general. His quote: ‘We were never designed for the sedentary, indoor, socially isolated, fast-foot-laden, sleep-deprived, frenzied pace of modern life.’ So maybe it’s not our expectations that are the problem; it’s our lifestyles.
“Millennials are more entitled because we’ve grown up in times of instant gratification. If we want something, we get it. Things that were privileges back in the day are now expectations for our generation.” Tiwa’s point was interesting – we are suckers for instant gratification. If we want to feel loved, we can post a status and get a few likes; if we want a new pair of Nikes, we can order them online to come in the next day or two. But it was what Tiwa said next that was really intriguing: “But this entitlement issue is cross generational. A lot of older people are ridiculously self-entitled; we just show it from a younger age.” This reminded me of the Sky article I talked to Brad about: an older man (Sam Kiley) arguing that our generation is more entitled than a bunch of public schoolboys colonising African nations. What the fuck?
What did I learn from talking to people about my generation being selfish, lazy, entitled etc.? Well, firstly that people have said this about generations across the board. Secondly, that not everyone thinks it – not even all older people. And thirdly, that even if we are this way, a lot of people – or Simon Sinek and my mother, at least – don’t think it’s our fault.
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