Whereas Generation X was routinely denigrated by the press, the Millennials have been compared to World War II’s Greatest Generation. In Robert Strauss and Neil Howe’s Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, the authors state authoritatively that “over the next decade, the Millennial Generation will entirely recast the image of youth from downbeat and alienated to upbeat and engaged.”
Are you kidding me? At least we can type complete sentences. And I’ll take cynical and angst-ridden over peppy and earnest any day. It’s much less annoying.
But apparently, the Millenials are the precious snowflakes that Chuck Palahniuk done wrote about. (They’re real, and they’re spectacular.) And according to Radar, what was denigrated about Gen X is celebrated about the Millenials.
Jump ahead 17 years, and my generation’s incessant “whining” (which, incidentally, is responsible for today’s transformed workplace) has been reframed as a sort of rugged individualism when applied to the Millennials…
But individuals, they seem not to be. They are the generation of Paris Hilton admirers, of Girls Gone Wild, of reality television and ubiquitous advertising. They seemingly embrace the machine, which is so unlike Gen X with its healthy skepticism:
We were the no-logo generation, famously skeptical of marketers who tried to pigeonhole us. We created independent rock and ostracized artists who “sold out” for capital gain.
Today, when a hip band allows Outback Steakhouse to co-opt one of their most beloved songs, Millennials don’t call it selling out. It’s a cogent business decision.
Yes, the Millenials are definitely not cynical. “The Man” doesn’t get them down. This lack of individualism and skepticism (“we’re team players… one of us, one of us”) is not something to be toasted. If anything, it’s downright scary. The implicit trust of authority, corporations, etc. can lead down an unpleasant path if not checked. And their sense of entitlement is the first step in the eradication of compassion. The two ingredients form a dangerous blend.
As for Gen Xers, they’ve definitely gotten a bad rap. They are creative, hardworking, and the movers and shakers. They’ll step up and not be afraid to rock the boat. They are 30 million small, but they’ve made and will continue to make their marks. (Go us.)
[UPDATE— The technology boom in a nutshell: The Boomers got rich. The Gen Xers got screwed. And the Millenials are reaping the benefits.]
[UPDATE 2— Some of this is bit tongue in cheek. I know that not all people are the same, and it isn’t fair to paint everyone with the same brush. That said, I’m writing in broad generalities.]