Comedian Adam Conover became my hero this week when he gave an amazing presentation about the fact that Millennials don't exist. Because he's right. We don't.
Well, no -- we literally exist. But we don't exist in the sense that we're a group of people who need to be spoken to like we're a newly discovered species of alien. We don't only communicate in emojis and Snap stories and phrases like "on fleek" (ew).
Generational titles like "Millennial" that arbitrarily group people together just end up reducing everyone to a few irrelevant and condescending qualities. I mean, sh*t, how many times can I hear that I'm entitled, lazy and narcissistic before I just throw my hands up in the air and say, "FINE, ALL RIGHT? YOU WIN. I AM THE WORST"? As Conover said in his presentation (you really need to check it out), "if you look at the demographics, here's what really exists: people."
I could go into the statistics to defend how Millennials are actually pretty great -- we're the most racially diverse group in history, we willingly take unpaid internships, and we are super open-minded, to name a few -- but I'm really bored of the generalizations that say otherwise. Don't even get me started on that infamous New York Times piece that tries to reaffirm that we're all entitled, lazy and narcissistic, aka the "Millennial trifecta," because I just don't have enough energy to defend it. Using one person to represent all is a logical fallacy that will just never die.
My biggest problem with these horrible Millennial generalizations is simple: They only tell one side of the story.
If you've passed the seventh grade, you have heard of the concept of nature versus nurture. Basic social science dictates that it's not enough to solely blame the individual (nature) for the kind of person he or she is. You also have to consider the environment this person is surrounded by (nurture).
For example, people love to scoff at Millennials because they are "obsessed" with social media. But I didn't invent social media; I simply use it. And now having an account on Facebook is as much of a basic need as making a livable wage. (Don't believe me? Ask the Philippines).
Facebook was invented because Mark Zuckerberg saw an opportunity to create an easier and more convenient way for us to connect with our friends. That Facebook has now become a fundamental life requirement -- employers now think people without Facebook accounts are "suspicious" -- is not something that he, or I, or one single Millennial did. This kind of phenomenon happens as a result of countless interactions between a new piece of technology and the culture surrounding it.
That's how societies progress, you guys: Something new is invented to make people's lives easier, people either use the thing or find problems with it (but use it anyway), and soon enough, everyone accepts the thing's place as the norm. That's what's happening with Facebook, and that's what happened with every notable invention before it.
I'm sure some wheel critic in the fifth or sixth century rioted in some amphitheater about how the YOUTHS need to stop WASTING THEIR TIME inventing wheels when they should be tending to the cattle who DO A BETTER JOB OF TRANSPORTING GOODS ANYWAY, and now look at where we are! Wheels are everywhere! Wheels are a normal and fundamental part of the human existence! Can you imagine if that wheel critic got his way? We literally wouldn't have bicycles or cars or airplanes, and it would take six months to travel from New York to New Jersey via cow.
Technology creates new needs, too. In part because of Facebook, we live in a world in which basically everything in our lives needs to be shareable. Enter Snapchat, the app that conveniently allows us to share each and every part of our lives at any second of the day, no matter what we are doing. If it weren't for Facebook, Snapchat's existence wouldn't make sense.
I guess if all these social media insults bother me so much, I could just stop using it. But I can't ignore the needs that have been created by the culture. I can't ignore the fact that I feel this god-awful desire to prove that I went to a bar or a concert I said I went to by uploading a picture onto Facebook or filming a Snap story about it.
Sure, I COULD use e-mail to communicate and share those pictures and videos with my friends, but people my age don't really use e-mail like that anymore. And goddammit, we shouldn't have to! E-mail is slower, less fun and less convenient than Facebook and Snapchat. Technology has surpassed the need for e-mail. I don't use e-mail for the same reason that people who use e-mail don't use carrier pigeon or a f*cking telegram: because it sucks now.
Everyone needs to stop criticizing Millennials for interacting with things that the world created for us to interact with. Like, Apple put a front-facing camera on my iPhone so I could take selfies, but I am "narcissistic" when I take selfies? I feel like I'm being trolled.
This whole interacting with your environment thing goes beyond the scope of technology. It includes the social and economic landscape I interact with as well.
I'm not "lazy" because I still live at home with my parents (which, as of a few months ago, is no longer even true, THANKS). I simply can't afford to move out yet. I had to go to college because a bachelor's degree is the bare minimum requirement to get a decent job, but then that put me in a sh*tload of debt. And then I got a job, but on average Millennials make less than their parents made at the same age. Debt + low salary = sleeping in your childhood bedroom until you turn 25.
I'm not "entitled" because I want to feel special even if I fail. Because meritocracy is simply not real, effort alone will never be enough to succeed, so it's not the worst thing in the world to acknowledge someone who tried their best. Especially someone who might be disadvantaged by the effects of the systemic sexism and racism that plague our society.
I think you get what I'm saying here. It's not all my fault, OK?
I'm not trying to exclusively blame society for the rise of the emoji-loving, selfie-taking, entitled, lazy and narcissistic Millennial. There are sh*tty Millennials, just as there are sh*tty Gen-Xers and baby boomers and what-have-you. I'm just saying everyone should take a step back and realize that it's not fair to hold an individual FULLY responsible for his or her sh*ttiness. Everyone, whether consciously or unconsciously, is a product of their environment in some way.
So, world: Please stop telling me, a Millennial, what I am and what I am not. Because the only thing I am is someone who's trying to live her damn life in the 21st century. And take the most flattering selfie for her Snap story.