What the hell is a millenial? Some kind of monster, stalking society and plotting the downfall of fogies everywhere? Twitter yetis smothering the world with mountains of useless data? Worthless individuals permanently stunted by easy access to the internet, their pathetic brains shriveling under the weight of the knowledge of the world?
Yes. That is true. I listen to a lot of AM radio and check in with news outlets frequently. It seems that everybody is talking about how to deal with millenials. I got scared. I looked over my shoulder in my car. They are out there, holding cell phones, demanding that things go faster, that using paper is foolish, that old people are going to mandatory death camps. The Baby Boomers are portraying these poor bastards into the dustbin of history. It only makes sense. They use cell phones and talk to their friends electronically. God, just listening to the news talk about this generation makes me want to move to the hills and live a simpler life, in a yurt without electricity. Off the grid. Oh wait, I already did that when I was a child.
I have yet to find a good definition of a millennial, besides the hundreds of definitions I have been supplied with. Their brains are different. They are barely human. HOW CAN WE DEAL WITH THESE PEOPLE? THEY ARE RUINING THE PLANET!
Concerned, I took an internet test. Shit, that might push me into the millenial camp. I should have taken a Cosmo quiz like the “normal” generations of people that came before. I graduated high school in 2000, the actual millenium. I remember the Y2K scare and thought that everybody was a damn fool for making such a big deal about it, especially older folks that, like the communist-hunting Yancy Fry Sr., feared “The Y2K.”
Thank God we survived that. Thank God. If all those computers had their dates messed up….something terrible would have happened. Or something. Let’s just say I didn’t build a doomsday bunker. I just got to listen to the media and others expertly discuss computer programming – “the dates won’t roll over!” Good times. I am starting to feel milennial. I can feel myself changing. Must fight it. I don’t want to be one of those brain-dead monsters, feeding on the bounty of previous generations. NO!
Just to keep my sanity, I took the aforementioned internet test. I was shocked and dismayed. I fell out of my chair. I cried. I wept. I looked myself in the mirror and punched it, splintering my images into countless shards of failed life. I grabbed my smartphone and threw it into the sea, tears streaming down my cheeks, as I cursed the gods for creating high-speed internet and data plans.
I fell to my knees and screamed out “FACEBOOK! You murderers! You made me type words on a keyboard! How will I ever communicate with a normal person again?!” Dramatic lightning flashed across the sky. A person walked up to me and asked what was wrong. Dumbstruck, I replied “I am a millenial.” Their eyes widened in terror as they backed away slowly, step by step. Madness-stricken, I cried out: “I am going to unfriend you!” Life as I knew it was over. My entire existence was pointless. The media was right.
Perhaps it is because previous generations control most of the media that this stereotyping is going on. I am tired of being branded a different sub-human because I prefer to verify information on the internet. And I am careful about what I cite from the web, and I teach my students the same skills. God forbid, we are the generation with access to all of mankind’s history, knowledge and traditions at the touch of our fingers. Apparently I am on the tail-end of the millenial thing, but I still have many of the same habits. Texting instead of calling. Why waste time calling? Is that really better? Unless it is important, I would rather just text.
“Hello. How are you? What are you doing later? Do you want to go to the movies? Really? That stinks. How is the cat? Small talk. Weather. Ok, talk to you later….guilty feeling that we should be talking about something else.” Are you really spending quality time with this person on the phone?
Or: “Want to go the movies?” “Busy – got a thing.” 30 seconds. For me, it is just more efficient.
I agree with many things that are said: people are reading less, thinking more shallowly and latching onto fads. As a historian, I would say that is all part of the trend. The zeitgeist is shifting, but it has always shifted. I had an argument with my sister-in-law about Presidents and the first thing we both did was reach for our phones to settle the dispute. We are terrible people. Arguing about politics and verifying information.
During the 2008 and 2012 elections, I felt more informed than ever, more connected with national politics, more involved than ever. The campaign was “real” and virtual as well. The politics changed by the hour, data was managed, I gained a real sense of the electoral college. Terrible milennials. Arguing with each other about which state should get the most attention to maximize our time. Having long, drawn out arguments during the interminable Clinton-Obama primary. Message board wars with hundreds of participants. Interactive maps. Up to the minute information. I guess we are just ignorant.
I do like to take pictures of things. I revel in the beauty of the world, the randomness of humans, and the mundane mysteries of the cosmos. I like to share them with people. If nobody looks at them, oh well. I enjoy seeing what other people are doing. To an extent. People that talk about themselves constantly on the internet usually do the same in “real-life.” Would a Baby Boomer that talked about themselves constantly and showed pictures of their families to everyone get the same sort of social beating? You showed slideshows of your vacation! You are a troll of a person! The great thing about the internet is, you don’t have to look at them all. JUST DON”T CLICK ON THEM!
I do get tired of uninformed people. I get tired of people that get mad at me for using a GPS instead of a map. I love using apps like Yelp. Nothing like going to an unfamiliar city and getting reviews from ACTUAL customers about hundreds of restaurants. I have found some killer eats that way. I think that these kind of apps bring people together, even if it is not always in person. Generally, I use the internet to make plans to meet up with people that I know, arrange activities, spread the word about birthdays. I could call forty people and invite them, or I could click and send a notification to them all. I could do both. Being a milennial doesn’t mean being hopelessly addicted to technology. I also think that people that use phones while they are talking to somebody is rude, especially from other generations. It is about respect, and if young people are lacking in that, take a look at the 1960s. Imagine the types of peace protests you could have organized with social media. The old-fashioned way was great, but the internet is a tool. Technology is a tool – I WILL NOT USE THE SEED DRILL! Jethro Tull’s newfangled machine is going to ruin farming.
I think there is much more of an entrepreneurial spirit in this generation. I constantly check the value of things on Ebay to get a sense of price. I try to turn the internet to my advantage. I think that milennials have a good sense of marketing, profit and the profit motive (especially advertising).
I don’t think students should use phones in class. I don’t think they should have the right to use them whenever they want. People using phones on the job drive me nuts, and I would give them a negative performance review for it if I had the chance. I have seen older teachers (NOT milennials) abuse their phones frequently. I have seen staff meetings in which half of the staff (NOT millenials mostly) were on their phones or laptops screwing around while the boss was talking. Why is this generation singled out for historical circumstances?
By the way, I know how to read. More than likely I know how to read better than you. I have a long and distinguished academic career that was fueled by technology. I read more than my fair share of traditional books, and I firmly believe students need to read hard copies of classic books. When I was doing research during grad school, I was amazed at how many articles I could find, even though my college (Sonoma State) didn’t have the biggest library. I got hundreds of articles through things like EBSCO and JSTOR. Even at the college where I teach (Mendocino College), we have access to these kinds of resources. The research game is miles above of where it was when I started school.
A message for previous generations. You have spoken, loudly and mostly ignorantly, of this “milennial generation” you have created with mutated brains and technological superpowers. Look at what we inherited from YOU:
A massive recession fueled by greed and corruption.
A horrific job market. I worked at a gas station after graduating college.
A generation of parents mistrustful of government from the Vietnam War.
Legions of angry hippies and rednecks still arguing about said War.
The hangover from the Culture wars of the 1990s.
Your antiquated notions of race and gender.
You suspicion and bewilderment.
A sense of alienation, like we live in a different world than you do.
A stagnant, bloated labor force.
Legions of Boomers that refuse to retire, forcing us to work at menial jobs without hope of promotion.
Massive deficits and debt.
Foreign Wars without end.
Politicians that speak ABOUT us, and not TO us.
The knowledge that we will not make as much as our parents.
The god damn Clinton sex scandal.
Schools that resemble warzones.
Gas prices through the roof.
Credit that has dried up due to the mentioned recession.
A ten-year gap between when we should be starting our careers and when we actually do.
Rising costs in everything.
Stories of drug abuse, free love and violence.
Student loan debt that can never be repaid.
Increases in medical technology that will guarantee the Boomer and Gen Xer lock on jobs.
JOHN BOEHNER AND MITCH MCCONNELL
So, if you bother to read this, give some thought to the next time you lampoon “milennials” and give yourself a big old pat on the back for your cleverness. Or at least google some better jokes.