One of my favorite magazines has always been Time. I don’t get to read it as often as I used to, there was a period of time in high school when I would go to the gym just to read the copies of Time while I ran on the treadmill! It’s been a while since I had a subscription but someone gifted me one this year and I’ve been loving it. My favorite issue by far was the May 20, 2013 issue. The cover story by Joel Stein was entitled “The Me Me Me Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents, why they’ll save us all.”
I couldn’t wait to read Joel Stein’s piece about this new generation, my generation. I spend a lot of time thinking about and talking to others about what my peers are doing with their lives, how we are shaping the world, and what I think our future looks like. It is really important to me that I leave a legacy, that my life makes a positive impact on this world.
Stein’s article was fascinating, he spent the first half of it discussing how much our generation just stinks. He details how narcissistic we are, how often we take “selfies,” how entitled we act and what little regard we have for others. To be honest, the first three pages of the story infuriated me. Even though I could see where Stein was going with it, I couldn’t help but take offense to what he was saying. I just kept thinking but no! I’m not like that! My friends aren’t like that! We don’t know people like that! But to be honest, I do know people like that. I have taken “selfies” with my friends, I often find myself concentrating too much on my life and not enough on the world around me.
And then, the article took a turn. Stein started to acknowledge that while most of his previous statements regarding our generation are true, they aren’t anything new. Generations before us were narcissitc, they were reckless. We may love rap music and booty dance, but they loved rock and roll and shook their hips to wildly on national television! Stein acknowledges that many of the issues that older generations recognize in younger generations aren’t based on a time period, but rather an age group. One of my favorite parts of the article acknowledged that we are a product of the techonology around us:
Can you imagine how many frickin’ Instagrams of people playing in the mud during Woodstock we would’ve seen? I think in many ways you’re blaming millennials for the technology that happens to exist right now.
And while reading that statement had me nodding my head and thinking Yeah! That’s true! It’s not our fault! It also had me thinking that we cannot just use technology as an excuse to make poor decisions. Past generations dealt with difficult distractions and still managed to pull through and to make a difference in their world.
The ending of Stein’s article was absolutely my favorite part:
So here’s a more rounded picture of millennials than the one I started with. All of which I also have data for. They’re earnest and optimistic. They embrace the system. They are pragmatic idealists, tinkerers more than dreamers, life hackers. Their world is so flat that they have no leaders, which is why revolutions from Occupy Wall Street to Tahrir Square have even less chance than previous rebellions. They want constant approval–they post photos from the dressing room as they try on clothes [...] They’re not into going to church, even though they believe in God, because they don’t identify with big institutions. [...] They are informed but inactive: they hate Joseph Kony but aren’t going to do anything about Joseph Kony. [...] They’re financially responsible; although student loans have hit record highs, they have less house hold and credit card debt than any previous generation on record [...] They love their phones but hate talking on them. [...] Whether you think millennials are the new greatest generation of optimistic entrepreneurs or a group of 80 million people about to implode in a dwarf star of tears when their expectations are unmet depends largely on how you view change. Me, I chose to believe in the children. God knows they do.
I love that last line. It summarizes so perfectly how obnoxiously self centered but focused on world change my generation can be. It makes me excited and anxious all at the same time to see what we end up doing with our one precious lives. It makes me a little scared, to be honest. But some wise women once told me to feel the fear and do it anyway, and that is exactly what we’re all doing.