The Millennial Misconception

This past week, my newly 30-year-old boyfriend posed a question to my group of friends. What movie resonated with our generation like Fight Club did with his? The group, all under 25, was unsure of how to respond. We tried to clarify: what value did Fight Club instill that made it so culturally influential? He responded in turn with a quote from the movie.

You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.  You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile. -Chuck Palahniuk

I looked around the table. One of my friends thoughtfully said, “I guess I still believe I am a special snowflake.” We all laughed, feeling the truth in his statement.

I know that millennials have all experienced media that tells us we aren’t special or unique. Our generation still continues to press on, ever filled with confidence, with full knowledge of the looming likelihood of our eventual destiny as corporation fodder. Almost in spite of this anti-snowflake chatter, millennials just don’t buy it.

Other generations tend to believe this inflated sense of self-esteem is the result of our upbringing, which has caused the epidemic of our entitled and generally self-absorbed behavior. Take Huffington Post author Lynda Bekore’s explanation as an example:

Egged on by parents, teachers, coaches, and a multitude of parenting “experts,” today’s 20-somethings were raised to believe that they were, indeed, the center of the universe. If they got a bad grade, the test must have been too hard. If they didn’t show up regularly to soccer practice, they still got to play because their feelings might get hurt. If they came down to breakfast with their pants on backwards, they got a big “Yay!” because after all, they dressed themselves, didn’t they?
I would make a Kris Kross reference, but that was before our time.
I would make a Kris Kross reference, but that was before our time.

That quote, in fact Ms. Bekore’s entire article, underscores the deep prejudice against millennial’s belief of the innate value of individual uniqueness. I’m not usually one for anecdotal evidence, but her story about the 25-year-old teacher emphasizing self-esteem in her students over failure reinforces exactly what other generations are so afraid of when it comes to millennials: an entire generation with a predilection for feeling good over working hard.

Let me ask the Boomers what working hard got them. Oh, that’s easy: I’ll just find one of the 49% still working well into their 60s. Is this what we are being criticized for? For abandoning the Protestant notion that hard work is a virtue? Better yet, that hard work will get you anywhere in life except for someone else’s payroll, overworked and undervalued?

Call us lazy and entitled if you want, but our “inflated” sense of self leads us to volunteer more, work for ourselves more, and even optimistically clean up the major global climate problems future generations have left for us.

What insults me most about the perception of millennials is that other generations seem to think that we are not responsible for our own sense of self-esteem. We must have just rolled over and accepted this one piece of information our parents taught us even though we have wholeheartedly rejected every other piece of doctrine that has been handed down to us.

I say that is factually, and logically, erroneous. Millennials are overly filled with self-esteem due to technology.

By the time our curiosity outgrew our immediate environment, every question we had could be answered with our own fingers. We didn’t need a teacher. We didn’t need a textbook. We didn’t need a parent. All we needed was a device conveniently located within our grasp and the ability to ask a question. The rest was delight and discovery.

Don’t know how to make a cake? Find a recipe online with a video walkthrough. Don’t know how to speak a certain language? Learn how or simply translate what you’d like to say using freeware. Don’t know how to do advanced math, use Auto-Cad, design a rocket? Don’t waste your time paying thousands of dollars for degrees, simply search for tutorials and pay a measly yearly fee if you’re really that curious. Chances are the information we find online is from a far more reputable source than our underpaid, worn out, small town high school teacher.

We were born with the superpower of the Internet. All knowledge and all information is one step away, and our individual self is the sole active force that can attain it. This is the reason that we believe we are “too big to fail.” It wasn’t our parents saying “good job” even though we failed at a task. We understand all too well what failure is as we had peer groups that certainly never spared the rod of humiliation and shame in response to our actions.

We are entitled and filled with delusions about our own power because we are constantly reinforced through technology that we can do anything we want. It is up to us to find the best, most relevant information. It is up to us to learn it, to act upon it, and to make whatever words we read a reality.

If you like what you read, feel free to share. Basic Rules: Be civil. We are all people and deserve respect. That’s a hard and fast rule, by the way, it is not optional. Other than that, anything goes.

Interested in many things, but nothing captivates more than technology, entrepreneurship, futurism, and humanity's quest to problem-solve.