Generation X, Y and Z (and probably A through W as well) have entrenched themselves in the cliché of disapproving of the younger generation. In turn, we whippersnappers have found footing in the trope of being the misunderstood heroes of our own movies. “Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps!” say our predecessors. To which we reply, “What are bootstraps?” “You have to start somewhere!” say our AARP-card-toting counterparts, and we nod in the direction of Silicon Valley. “Get a job!” they rage. “Get a life!” we reply, adjusting our man-buns as we blow our savings on Coachella tickets.
Alongside our parents, the media furiously scribbles articles trying to understand this new species: The Millennial. They have iPhones in place of hands, SnapChat filters obscuring their faces, and speak in an amalgam of hashtags and quotes from popular Netflix series.
This is the Millennial you’ll read about in the papers, each descriptor accompanied by an unspoken eye-roll. However, as often happens when categorizing broadly, a certain amount of stereotyping becomes functionally necessary. Thus, some percentage of the 75 million American Millennials take offense to the egregious pigeonholing lurking between the articles’ lines. Though 75 million mouths remain shut, 75 million thumbs find their voice on Twitter. The issue is not that we feel unheard, but the accusation that we are not listening.
The unstated presumption made by articles claiming to profile the Millennial is that the words are not for us. The implied audiences are the Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers trying to understand their terminally late employees and Instagram addicted daughters. Not only do these authors belong overwhelmingly to the aforementioned generations, the implication castes the Millennial as too self-absorbed to read anything longer than 280 characters.
Without the internships, degrees or experience to add our own bylines to major publications, the Millennial is relegated to the fringes of the blogosphere. A WordPress subscription proves little defense against the maelstrom of bad press. We receive more advice than anyone else; must we wait for the next insufferable generation to masquerade this counseling as wisdom?
Would any masochist bother to sift through our social media posts, they might be surprised to find that we are both well informed and self-deprecating. While our iPhones are indeed super-glued to our palms, many journalists seem to end their notes here. After listening to a song by a rapper whose name is undoubtedly preceded by ‘Lil’ and briefly opening Facebook only to wonder why we still bother, plenty of time remains for the News app or an enlightening podcast. And let’s not forget that buried beneath those Scrooge-like piles of student loan debt, a sterling education awaits utility.
A scroll through Reddit proves a self-awareness of our unbearable image. For every vegan YouTuber yammering about cauliflower almond-milk pizza, three snickering modern satirists construct the perfectly subversive meme.
Upon reading an article, the Millennial wants to feel counted among the serious journalistic audience rather than dismissed as illiterate ne’er-do-wells. As ever, this begins with the words.
By Fletcher Bonin