The great generation game
By James Handley
Photography by Benoit Paillé
Recently I’ve been digging into a lot of newspaper articles and videos about the Millennial phenomenon. The self-obsessed photomontage neo-narcissist generation that plagues our newsfeeds, consumes instalikes and prides itself on its ability to hashtag pretty much anything. They are uninterested in politics, focus their whole well-being around their screens, and scrounge off the system. I don’t know about you, but I genuinely think that this view of our generation is utter bullshit. As a Millennial, I don’t use social media a lot, and like to start more conflicting points of view, so where did it go wrong? How did we get so divided as a society? I think this little theory might help.
First of all, what is wrong with our generation? Exactly everything that is wrong with every other generation. We have given it a name. The Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generation X… “Millennials” is just another unquantifiable name to herd people of a certain age into a corner and poke them for a while until they crack. But why herd them in the first place? Because what made sense to the past generations no longer applies to ours. And that confuses them. Why do the millennials not do the things they do? Why do they not have houses that they own? Relating the past with the present. It’s a little idiotic really.
But what was idiotic became scary. Marginalising a whole section of people is unappealing, and to say that the youth are lazy and unmotivated is subjecting them to stereotyping. Simon Sinek shows this with his speeches about how millennials are at fault in this respect, citing participation trophies, internet addiction and entitlement to why they don’t succeed. Another is Time Magazine’s ‘ME ME ME’ edition which stereotypes an entire generation, though it does use facts and figures in its defence. In this way, the already-present age gap between the two generations widens even further. But this can be poisonous in its own way. Sinek talks about over-coddling youth to the point of entitlement, but that is a very dangerous way of thinking. To say over-coddling affects only Millennials is an extreme generalisation from the media, it could equally affect those from other generations that we have created. Baby Boomers could have the same care as those today and end up in the same position as those in the Gen X category. It affects individuals differently, and therefore deconstructs the generation classification.
If the generation classification is not accurate and damaging, should we subscribe to it? If it separates people who are basically the same apart from the fact some born earlier than others, then I would argue that this doesn’t help us as a society at large.
A division between others has never helped those in history and therefore won’t help in the present day. Kyle Reyes, CEO of The Silent Partner Marketing, claimed to use a ‘snowflake test’ to weed out those who are deemed entitled and whiny, even to call out millennials in this respect. I would like to ask how many of these applicants fit into the millennial age bracket, as some applicants could be seen as in the Gen X bracket instead. We have not seen the figures in this respect, and I doubt we will. But it highlights a problem in the grouping, that it could be said that Kyle Reyes is actively targeting millennials due to stereotypes.
It seems appropriate to point out that no particular generation is whiny, but it does seem to fit that the most reportedly entitled always seem to be the youngest of the overall population. Newspapers and magazines follow this theme, with the 90’s developing a hatred of Gen Xers calling them slackers and unmotivated. The baby boomers follow suit with their rise through hippie culture, largely seen as what was wrong with the era in the 70’s. With these you can see that all that has changed is the times, and not the attitudes.
The great generation game has constantly been against the people who are ahead of them. This is simply down to the threat of redundancy but can lead to others using the generation game as a serious tool to separate those affected by changing times. As age will go on we will see that those who identify as baby boomers detach themselves to those who are millennials. This can already be seen in the growing ideology of nostalgia, which has widened the metaphorical generation gap to those who want an independent United Kingdom and those who support the EU. The great generation game is just about to change.