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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
The Observer

Millennials are not lazy

I am about to go where many men and women have gone before. I am going to talk about how ridiculously lazy and ignorant it was for Joel Stein to generalize the entire population of millennials as the “Me, Me, Me” generation and call us all “narcissistic, materialistic and addicted to technology” in his May 20, 2013 Time Magazine article. By the way, Stein, the few hazy statistics you used are uncited, and a "narcissism scale" is not a thing. I am going to point out how hurtful and insulting it is that that same magazine has a "Millennial Cliché" Scale. I am going to express my intense frustration at the steadily-growing accumulation of Saturday Night Live skits that fall back on the easy target of millennials’ supposed inanity and vocal fry, most recently when Miley Cyrus hosted on Oct. 3. At this point, there’s nothing lazier than copping out of writing an actually insightful social criticism and complain about the over-generalized laziness of millennials.

I could spout out statistics to you and tell you how according to Ezra Klein’s May 9, 2013 Washington Post rebuttal to Stein’s article, millennials prioritize being good parents, having successful marriages, helping others in need and living religious lives anywhere from about two to six times more than becoming famous.

But my most intent rebuttal to older generations’ criticisms is just plain insult and hurt. When I think of my generation, I remember most the bizarrely unhealthy competition over SAT scores and admission to Ivy League schools, to the point of record-breaking levels of depression and anxiety. I remember my parents ridiculing me for spending all my time in high school studying, pointing out that they never went to college and did just fine, laughing at how shockingly low they scored on their SATs and encouraging me to go have fun with my friends.

When I think of my generation, I think of the panic attack that struck me when I was on a bus back to school after Christmas break, listening to nearby classmates list off internships they were applying to and my immediate reaction of needing to apply to even more.

Yes, when I think of my generation, I think of social media — I think of the Pavlovian apprehension that arises in me every time I open an app because of the anxiety and stress caused by being surrounded by everyone's highlight reel. Social media really boils down to sculpting personas of ourselves as the people we want to be and exhibiting instances of ourselves living the lives we want to have.

When I think of my generation, I think of the maddening pressure to ace my classes, have classy internships and be successful in my career, but also to remember to travel and see the world, and in the meantime to make sure to cultivate deep relationships and have fun — to make, in other words, every minute count. And along with this I think of Healthline’s claims that 1 in 4 college students suffer from some mental illness, 44 percent of them experiencing depression, and that young people suffering from depression are five times more likely to attempt suicide than adults.

And after all of this, thanks to the ignorant, casual generalizations of Joel Stein, we’re just apathetic?

So here’s my brazen, obnoxious generalization: as a millennial, I can tell you that we’re the farthest from shallow. We’re stressed, anxious and scared because we, more than any other generation, live deliberately. We are obsessed with living meaningful lives — with being the people we want to be and plodding individualized, deathbed-pleasing paths, with making sure we travel, have deep relationships and are successful in our passions.

It’s overwhelming, and almost impossible, but we’re not lazy — we’re trying.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.