Here's how it goes: alarmistsÂ notice negative traits in twenty-somethings. They say "I don't have these negative traits" and attribute itÂ to generational difference.
But there's something else that's at play here: youth.
To state the obvious, everyone was young once (I think). Might Generation Y have more in common with the baby boomers and Generation X and even the Silent Generation if we compare young people to young people? Baby boomers are no longer preaching free love orÂ writhing to tambourines. Assuming that the characteristics below are even "true," I think we are bound to outgrow them. For better or for worse. And when they pop up in Generation Z, donât be surprised.Â (Suggested soundtrack for this post: Nat King Cole's Blame It On My Youth).
Fun â Instant Gratification
A recent travel survey revealed that millennials are more likely to lie in order to get a day off work. The internet, including viral article farm Mashable, jumped all over it. But the most infamous pop culture example I can think of that portrays someone ditching their responsibilities to seek fun instead is Ferris Buellerâs Day Off, which hit the box office in 1986 â placing it squarely in the realm of then up-and-comers, the Generation Xers. In fact, at that time the film was seen as proof of a lazy, fun-loving, completely off-course generation. In Screening Generation X, Christina Lee writes that Ferris, âencapsulated the Reagan eraâs near solipsist worldview and insatiable appetite for immediate gratificationâof living in and for the momentâwith the protagonistâs reverence for that dirty F-wordâŚfun.â Hmm. Sound familiar? The same charges are being leveled against Generation Y right now. It wasnât until 2011 that Generation X was partially pardoned for those exaggerated claims by The Generation X Report, which presents a positive, updated look at the Americans who were widely called slackers during the 1970s and 1980s, during their youth. But corrections don't get as much attention as accusations.
Idealism â Naivete
Yes, we desperately want to (and think we can) heal the environment, fix stalled politics, and âchange the world.â But the idea that millennials want to do something that mattersâwhether that takes the form of a career or a volunteer gigâ is not unique to my generation. In many ways idealism is inextricably linked to youth, and vice versa. âThe idealism of youthâ is an oft-used phrase that even appears in the Oxford Dictionaries as a way to explain the concept of idealism itself, just as jadedness and cynicism are often associated with advanced age. Think of idealistic characters from movies and literature. Anne of Green Gables, Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, Pollyanna. They are almost always young. Taking a stand for your beliefs is a defining experience of adolescence. Interestingly, some scientistsÂ extend the range of adolescence up to age 25, as it has been biologically documented that brain development still occurs until age 25. Either way, we can agree that millennials are young, and that, for better or for worse, their youthful idealism does not set them apart from any other generation.
Narcissism â Self Expression
This one is often stated in conjunction with new technologies, as in, âmillennials are obsessed with selfies.â Yet feeling compelled to express ourselves when we are young and developing an identity isnât a new phenomenon. In fact, werenât the baby boomers known for expressing themselves, with their ruffian haircuts and âout-thereâ fashion choices? Young adultsÂ are going throughÂ the most photographed (and thus, self-centered portion) of our lives--think Senior photos, graduation photos, engagement photos, wedding photos.This will wane as the years go by and we turn the lens on our children instead. And this Emory University study suggests that people who come of age during economic downturns will likely become less narcissistic than those who begin careers during economic booms. Whether you believe the study or not, my point is that levels of narcissism are not static. They oscillate throughout oneâs life.
Inexperienced â Immature
In one of the mostÂ scathing articlesÂ about millennials Iâve ever read, Jennifer Graham of the Boston GlobeÂ railed against us for being a âminimally employable crop of Americans.â In fact, instead of worthy candidates for jobs, weâre just âidle trophy kids.â Really? Youâre going to complain that twenty-somethings are inexperienced? Of course they are. They havenât had as much time as thirty and forty and fifty year olds to prove themselves. Just as there will always be entry-level jobs, there will always be young, inexperienced workers. Donât hold it against them.
Questioning Authority â Disrespecting Authority
Young people have been questioning authority for decades now, like the baby boomers, who were instrumental in redefining âtraditional valuesâ in the United States. Adolescents and young people are more apt to question authority because theyâre in the midst of figuring out which rules are common sense and which are relative, ultimately trying to figure out whether the rule needs to exist or whether it does more harm than good. And it has been an American ideal for centuries more: âIt is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority,â wrote Benjamin Franklin. Another way to phrase this is innovation.
Spoiled â EntitledÂ
âMore so than previous generations, millennials incubated in beauty and comfort and spaciousness unknown to their parents at that age,â wrote Jennifer Graham in the aforementioned Boston Globe article. âThere were no four-car garages, master suites, and cathedral ceilings unless your name was Kennedy or Bush," she continues. Yet, werenât the boomers widely associated with privilege and increasing affluence? Â According to babyboomersinamerica.com, âBaby boomers in North America and Europe often get associated with privilege because a lot of them grew up in times of various government subsidies in post-war education and housing, and increasing wealth.â Old Economy Steve is another reminder that boomers could be viewed as "spoiled" in terms of their economic situations. Though the ability to be spoiled depends very much on one's affluence, being spoiled is, in general, associated solely with youth. You cannot "spoil" a middle-aged person.