The Kids Are (Probably) Alright - 5 Reasons Millennials Are Criticized Too Harshly

In recent years there has been a lot of criticism of young people by older generations. This is nothing new really - Older people have probably been slamming up-and-coming generations for as long as they've been able to collectively shake their fists and yell at them to get off their lawns.

The Millennials are the latest generation to catch a lot of flack for the traits that many critics claim define them, and also point to as evidence that they will ultimately fail at life. At my age, I must guard against curmudgeonry, and have found myself often enough shocked at something a 25 year old has written on Facebook, or at certain attitudes that seem common with people under the age of 34 or so, that seem alien or challenging to my sensibilities. So what is it about the generation of young people that were born between 1980 to sometime in the early 2000s that makes their attitudes and actions so objectionable to some members of generation X and baby boomers?

The thing about youth cultures is older people aren't supposed to "Get it".
The thing about youth cultures is older people aren't supposed to "Get it".

5. Their Music Is Awful.

One of the most common criticisms of the Millennial Generation that I hear a LOT, is that their music is irredeemably terrible. This is the same bogus judgment that young people have been hearing from their elders since at least the 1950s. When some old fogey is dismissing the values of younger people, what better way to illustrate how lame they are than saying the music they choose to listen to is garbage? I occasionally find myself thinking along those lines too, but then stop myself and think back to when I was a teenager and young adult listening to baby boomers lecture me about how shitty my generation's music was compared to the soundtrack of their own youth. I can't think of anything less rock and roll than a 40-year-old dude telling a 20 year old that music had been going steadily downhill since Grand Funk Railroad broke up, and nothing recorded after 1979 was worth a shit. Ignoring the fact that the classic rock generation also was the one that gave the world disco and plenty of crappy bands in general, it's a pretty lame way to celebrate the fading relevance of one's own youth by pissing all over someone else's.

As for my own generation, it makes me sad seeing some of us doing the same thing to younger people now. All generations have good and bad music, changes in style are not really something the older generation is always supposed to "get".

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4. They Were The First Generation To Grow Up With The Internet, And It Affects Everything.

I was almost 30 before I had my first dial up Internet account. I'd had tech savvy friends who were early users of the Internet, but in the '90s it still seemed unnecessary to my enjoyment of life. But many Millennials grew up with the Internet being around their entire lives, and one of the traits they collectively share is that it has shaped their world in ways that are different than previous generations.

Imagine if the baby boomers or Gen X had social networking sites like Facebook or Internet forums to spend a large chunk of their socializing time on. It's like being handed the loudest microphone in the world, where any youthful indiscriminate remark can get noticed by countless individuals. People embarrass themselves online everyday, or share extreme opinions that they will probably grow out of or will change over time. I'm grateful that my own adolescence and young adulthood wasn't broadcast and preserved so easily. If we're being fair, the Internet has revolutionized social interaction among people of all ages, and it's easy enough to find examples of people my age or older making asses of themselves online daily. Singling out younger people's experiences as particularly stupid is pretty silly.

Another aspect of the Internet being a driving social force in the lives of young people is the way it can make people instantly famous. I've heard people describe Millennials as collectively desiring fame, but even if that's true, I can't really blame them. They've grown up in an environment where the largest communication tool humanity's ever had has changed nearly every aspect of our lives. If I was 17 and saw kids a few years older than me earning millions because they have a popular YouTube channel, I might look to that as a dream job myself. I think it's far too early to judge an entire generation of young people as being vacant narcissists, but if that turns out to be true, how can we blame them? They didn't make the world they live in, they inherited it from us.

3. Their Ideas Of A Fair Society Are Hard For Some Older People To Take.

Certain studies indicate that a majority of Millennials are increasingly more liberal in regards to social issues than their older counterparts. Again, time will tell how much of a generational trait that truly is as Millennials age. Despite being a generation known for creating a counter culture and massive social upheavals, it seems like plenty of baby boomers got steadily more conservative as they grew older. I can say the same thing about many members of my own generation, and it's weird observing people who I knew were self identifying socialists with blue hair and a nose ring in 1992 bitching about young blue haired socialists now. 

Occasionally I encounter young people who are abrasive creeps that are just looking to play an ego gratifying blame game in regards to society's problems, but just as often I encounter Millennials who are earnestly trying to make their world a better place. Society is steadily becoming more inclusive, and if trying to make it fairer and safer for more people is something that young people want, more of us should listen to them. It doesn't mean everything they demand is going to be reasonable or realistic, but dismissing them out of hand for being idealists is a pretty sad thing to do. As for the shrill voices that seem to make ridiculous demands? It's important to remember every generation has produced those, and the Internet might amplify their presence more than in the past.

Increasingly Millennials will be catered to, as they represent an enormous consumer demographic.
Increasingly Millennials will be catered to, as they represent an enormous consumer demographic.

2. Some Of Them Reject Established Milestones Of Adulthood Until Later.

There was a time not too long ago where people commonly got married and settled down into adulthood as soon as they left high school. People still do that of course, but our society has changed a lot over the last few decades, and Millennials are less likely to embrace certain aspects of what some people consider to be adult traits until later in their lives.

It's not that uncommon to find people in their 20s still living with their parents, and others are either waiting until later in life to get married or have children, or they're avoiding that choice altogether. Some critics point to these things as evidence that younger people are infantilized and unable to accept normal adult responsibilities. The jury is still out on things like Helicopter Parenting, where parents are more involved in their children's lives for far longer than was typical in earlier generations. Whether being provided a parental safety net or getting a trophy just for participation is creating adults unable to function on their own, or helping them enter adulthood with less anxiety is still undecided. However, the rejection of certain milestones of adulthood until later might be caused more by economic and social factors than some need to be coddled forever. In a tough economy, living at home longer is probably a good strategy for some young adults trying to get on their feet. Waiting to get married later in life might make sense to someone who has witnessed a lot of failed marriages among their peers. These things don't necessarily indicate that Millennials won't become productive members of society.

1. They Represent Change.

Really, almost all generational clashes are a result of a slow changing of the guard. As older groups are gradually displaced by younger ones, it's a reminder that the one constant in life is change, and change can be unbearable for many people. It's natural for a person to worry about losing their social dominance in the world, and young people with different values and different lifestyles than those who came before are a hard punch in the nose reminder of that. Looking back on my own youth, I remember being told that we were irresponsible "Slackers", and that we would surely leave the world a worse place than the those before us. Our music sucked, our culture sucked, we had weird hair and worse attitudes. Every generation goes through growing pains, and has different challenges to deal with. It's easy to stay drunk on the memory of ones own glory days, and conveniently forget the bad stuff some of us experienced. I'm going to guess that while the world continues to change, Millennials will prove to be a positive part of those changes, and will largely become responsible members of society. Even if their music sucks compared to what we had in 1994.


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