Blink-182 said it best in their 1999 hit “What’s My Age Again?,” “Nobody likes you when you’re twenty-three”.
What I wouldn’t do to go back and heed their lyrical wisdom to prepare for life as a 20-something. I understand that every generation of twenty-somethings is usually not well received, but my generation seems to really be taking the brunt of it. There are entire books, articles, TED talks, all examining this greedy Generation Y and why they are so insufferable.
I’ll admit, not all the reporting is negative. Some have made great points by observing that Millennials are different because they are the first real generation of the digital world. Many also recognize that Millennials indeed have a great deal of potential. Last year, a well-circulated TIME article outlining how Generation Y is the most selfish generation yet, purported that aside this selfishness, Millennials will be the ones to “save us all”.
Even with this recognition of great potential, I am still irked by the underlying message in almost all of these works. The message of “Even though Millennials can be great and will probably save us all, you still shouldn’t like them”. This is a common tenet among elder generations. No matter what we do, Generation Y just can’t help but be unlikeable.
So why do today’s young people seem so much more dreadful and self-absorbed than those before? The way I see it, young people have been selfish, immature, and making too many mistakes for their own good since the dawn of time. But for the first time ever in history young people are consistently documenting every reckless mistake or ridiculous thought that comes to their mind for virtually every person on earth to access at the click of a button.
In this world of ever-increasing dissemination of ideas and information, young people are always at the forefront of these technological advances. And more often than not, the things we post online are not leaving a stellar impression on those tech-savvy professors or future employers.
In defense of the young people, I don’t believe this to be an idiosyncratic trait of our generation. We are just victims to the time which we were born into. It could’ve happened to the best of us. But with millions of videos stashed online of Millennials performing some pointless, ephemeral trend or perhaps just acting like a twenty-something, it’s hard not get a negative view of our generation. And when an entire generation is incessantly posting such videos or tweeting every 5 min with an update on their “lost my favorite coffee mug” fiasco, no wonder we are often referred to as “Generation Me”.
Now I’m not saying all YouTube videos and Facebook activity must cease immediately. These outlets of expression and collaboration are important. But in this modern age we are all interconnected in a way we have never been before and this means we need to be cautious about how we represent ourselves, individually and collectively. My generation in particular and every generation hereafter must be more careful than any other generation that has come before us.
People my age often complain about not being taken seriously by our elders. Well, fellow generation Y-ers, you need to deserve to be taken seriously. Stop posting pictures of your drunken weekend on Facebook and being shocked when you don’t get that job you just interviewed for.
So here’s my advice to my generation. Just because we were blessed to be born into this day an age doesn’t mean we should allow ourselves to live the extremely lazy lives that this time of excess allows us to. Every once in a while take a break from Vine and really utilize the Internet. We need to take advantage of these amazing tools of intelligence and technology that surround us. These tools can be an aid in advancing our world even further and strengthening the lives of others.
The Internet is ripe with a myriad of character and mind building tools available for free. Did you know you can take courses online from Universities such as Yale and Johns Hopkins through sites such as Courseera, for free? You do not need to be enrolled in the school or pay any type of registration fee. It is as simple as entering an e-mail address and clicking enroll. One of my favorite online educational tools is the weekly podcast titled “Stuff You Should Know”. It is a great podcast with two hosts who explicate hundreds of interesting topics, from how fair trade works to how Bigfoot works.
Now might seem like a hard time to be a twenty-something in America, and in a lot of ways it is. But I also believe it to be the most advantageous time ever to be a twenty-something. Your twenties is the time to set the precedent for what your life will be, and never before has a generation’s future been so apparently unlimited. We do not have anything concrete holding us back from success as people did in the past and we have lived through such an innovative time we have seen how practically anything is possible.
When I look around at my generation I may see a bunch of narcissistic cretins, but I also see driven, creative, open-minded young people who never cease to amaze me. So I would just like to encourage all you Millennials out there to stop reading Paul Ryan memes for five seconds and go cultivate your talents. Are you going to be the next Van Gogh or the one who discovers the cure for cancer? Only one way to find out.