millennialsAre you familiar with Millennials? Also known as the ME ME ME Generation? They're the folks who were born between 1980 and 2000. Joel Stein wrote a cover piece about them for Time magazine, and I gotta tell you, he nailed it.
He nailed it when he pointed out the rampant narcissism prevalent within this generation. Seems like all those participation trophies have teamed up with the self-promoting (if not self-aggrandizing) aspects of social media to render a generation of people who are convinced of their greatness.
He nailed it when he pointed out that this generation is fame obsessed. Because the aforementioned narcissism has not only resulted in a generation convinced of their own greatness, but also one that believes that greatness will (or at least should) translate into reality TV fame. And who can blame them? The stars that they look up to are, for the most part, folks without any distinguishing characteristic or talent - folks famous for being nothing more than (an exaggerated version of) themselves.
The millennials prove that for all the undeniable benefits of technology, there are also detriments. Example: this generation is plugged in and informed to a far greater extent than any preceding it. And thanks to the umpteen trillion ways in which people are now able to instantaneously communicate, they're in touch with one another like never before, too. Yet most of that interaction comes by looking at a screen, not another human being, which means that millennials rarely experience face-to-face interaction. At least comparatively speaking. This is why this age group tests particularly low when it comes to empathy. As Stein put it:
"Not only do millennials lack the kind of empathy that allows them to feel concerned for others, but they also have trouble even intellectually understanding others' points of view."
Related: 10 things I did as a child that kids today would NEVER do
In all fairness, though, it's awfully tough to understand what someone is talking about when you're preoccupied by how many likes the self-portrait of you and your dog is currently garnering on Facebook. And Instagram.
Tests also show that there is less civil engagement among this group and lower political participation than any previous generation, which, when you think about it, is consistent with how Mike "the Situation" Sorrentino rolls.
I've long lamented these things. So often, in fact, that I've come up with a term for it: The "Pornification of America," where very little matters other than how things look. Where reality TV is anything but. Where characters have become stars that dot the ever-dimmer constellations of our pop-culture sky.
Kim Kardashian, for example, readily admits that she lacks any discernible talent. Proudly, even. And that bugs the hell out of me. This democratization of content, from blogs all the way to television, is rendering a less intelligent country. It's contributing to the dumbing down of America.
You'd hope that the most popular would translate to the most talented, but it just doesn't. At least not all the time. Do you know how uncool it is to be intellectual these days? Doesn't anyone give thought to thinking anymore?
Stein's piece gave me the official answer: NO. The millenials, it turns out, really are anti-intellectual. This, per Emory English professor Mark Bauerlein, who is quoted in Stein's piece:
"Peer pressure is anti-intellectual. It is anti-historical. It is anti-eloquence. Never before in history have people been able to grow up and reach age 23 so dominated by peers. To develop intellectually you've got to relate to older people, older things: 17-year-olds never grow up if they're just hanging around other 17-year-olds."
So, by now, I'm sure you know my take on this selfish, pampered, narcissistic and entitled group (the one my oldest daughter belongs to), right? I flat-out LOVE them. Love them! And the reason why has to do with Achilles.
You remember Achilles, right? (Assuming you're not a millennial, because Achilles never had one of those Brett Michaels TV shows where he was handsomely compensated to find love while simultaneously banging the various trollups who were competing therefor. Plus, he's not on Twitter.)
Achilles was the Greek war hero whose mother dunked him in the river Styx so that he'd become immortal, yet when she submerged him, she'd been holding him by his heel, thus leaving that part of his body vulnerable. Which is how he died - an arrow to the heel during the Trojan war.
Achilles' upside (general invincibility) was also his downside (that damn heel his mother failed to account for). And I've long believed that's the case with virtually every single person and/or entity out there. Almost any positive attribute has a negative side to it; the advancement of technology is no exception.
So while I believe the democratization of content is a bad thing to an extent (I'm looking at you, Snooki), I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out that granting everyone the same access to the same information regardless of demographic/socio-economic background (which is exactly what the Internet has done) is not a bad thing at all.
Sure, the millenials are self-absorbed, but they're also enterprising. I've even followed their lead. When I began my journey as a freelancer, I was a 40-year-old guy who'd never once been paid to write or create videos. Who'd never once been trained to write or create videos. Now producing content for the Internet is a huge facet of my life. That's a scenario that just 20 years ago would be implausible at best.
Yes, it's a shame that these millenials are entitled, but that entitlement is nothing more than the result of knowing that any person can accomplish anything. You don't need a background in TV. You just need a YouTube account. You don't need contacts in the publishing industry. You just need a blog.
Yes, it's a shame that inter-personal communication is dying. And yes, I wish people were more empathetic. But you know what this generation is, instead? More kind. More tolerant. More accepting. The access provided by the Internet has spawned a generation of people who know they can accomplish anything because they've seen people doing just that from all different backgrounds, with differing shades of skin color, and differing religious beliefs and sexual orientations.
So, yes, to an extent, these folks are focused on numero uno as they march right along (with head down while texting) to claim what is rightfully theirs. But on a global level, they innately understand that there is nothing special about their particular demographic, which makes them more respectful to those around them, even if they struggle to understand points of view that differ from their own.
Upside, friends. It's there in spades with the millennials.
So the next time you see three 20-somethings sitting side-by-side-by-side at a bar, each frantically texting away, go right ahead and roll your eyes if you want. But be sure to remember one thing: All you're really seeing is their achilles heel. The rest of their body might just be damn close to invincible.By John Cave Osborne
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