Have you ever stopped for a moment to think about the items that our generation consumes? Sure, we have Hoverboards and iPhones, apps and interactive videos, but what about our vinyl records, Polaroid cameras, retro bikes and interest in shopping at antique stores?
Our generation, the millennial generation, is a bit lost. There’s not something particular that our generation clings to as a clear representation of who we are and what we stand for. The ’60s had bell bottoms, Jimi Hendrix, the Black Freedom Movement, women’s lib, and oh, yeah, a revolution. The ’70s followed in a lackluster shadow, but there was still Farrah Fawcett, Magnavox’s Odyssey, “Star Wars” and folk music. The ’80s brought about mullets and mind-numbing synthesizers in seemingly every dream-pop soundtrack, but they marked the beginning of something else: the millennial generation.
If you’re reading this as a college student, chances are you were born in the ’90s. We suppose the ’90s gave us flip phones, Furbies and a handful of obscure grunge bands for Urban Outfitters to sell t-shirts for in the late 2000s. But the ’90s spawned an undesirable latent trait that most kids of the generation bear the label of: lazy. Being the vast majority of our students are traditional students (students who came to college almost immediately post-graduation), we should address the issue since we’re the fringes of the millennial generation.
If your story is anything like ours, it was in the mid-2000s where you may have started feeling like the inventions and sentiments of the times were lackluster, if not phony. We certainly mean phony in the sense that Holden Caulfield would have used it. We’ve never shared these thoughts out loud. Rather, they became little, guarded self-truths that made parties unbearable and true relationships hard to forge.
It just seemed, from a young age, that these young adults that we were being raised with were so detached from the world around them. We used to spend a lot of time thinking that we were aloof for not wanting to be a part of our own generation. Eventually, it’s likely that some of us began to develop a subconscious theory that we were rejecting our generation because they (individuals who seemed entirely adapted and content with the era the were born into) were rejecting us.
It was a vicious cycle where our own cynicism for our peers was replicated on their behalf by the petty rolling of their eyes when we sat across from them in class. Take, for instance, the hypothetical occurrence of two girls sitting at a table in the cafeteria at Van on any given day. One is probably scrolling away into an endless abyss of digital data, the other eats with her head down, headphones in, numb to the clatter and conversation around her.
Daily, we, the writers, observe them in much the same way we imagine a researcher would study an elusive species, perhaps one from which they had evolved. The problem with watching these two students? We feel we’re victims of a reversal of evolution, a devolution. Sure, we can order pizza through a text message and play Scrabble with our aunts in Georgia on little electrical devices, but where is the thrill, the promise of a future so great none could even imagine? We’re talking about peaceful protests, good films, music before Autotune, highwaisted shorts and Chevy Bel Airs. This is where we wonder if this is why millennials are catalogued as “lazy” by the public eye.
Conversation seems to be hard because the scope of what interests any given individual is so narrow. There is no longer a universal consensus on what is interesting or good. What we define as narrow is subjective, but knowing that our lack of communication as a whole is deteriorating due to an inability or unwillingness to listen is not subjective. Some youth realize this and it’s why they bury themselves in an esoteric, if not dated, subculture where the comforts of the past become a security blanket for the present.
Some millennials seem to latch onto these tokens of another era so as to reenact a time in which the youth’s voice was influential, engaged and understood. For what other reason would we be digging on our hands and knees in antique stores for musty copies of Buffalo Springfield, but to feel some sense of purpose, of rabble-rousing camaraderie? We, the late teens and early twenty somethings, are starting to come to terms with a world that is radically different than the one we were born into. We’re trying to cope in a world where what’s supposed to be the most personalized form of communication is also the most depersonalizing.
We see ourselves as a generation that’s afraid of failing and rightly so. We have so much to lose and so much to gain depending on how well we’re able to unify for the greater good. The “laziness” that stigmatizes our youth is not a laziness of character or will. It’s an inbred laziness from being called ungrateful, parasitic progeny of Generation X. The prospects of a few millennials are ruining the trajectory of the many. We can’t speak on behalf of every individual, but we’ve met people here in this sleepy university town that are going to revolutionize classrooms and galvanize their readership.
The toughest obstacle we face, as a demographic, is too heavily romanticizing complacency. Too many of us buy into the notion that life is, or should be, struggle free and that if it’s not, then we’re doing something wrong. Essentially, we have cinematic expectations for reality, where the flawless ease of a production set translates seamlessly into our own world.
The truth is that reality is what we make it, and if we need to listen to Bob Dylan B-sides and drink throwback Cokes out of a glass bottle for the sake of nostalgia while we tackle the problem of today, then so be it.
Our Viewpoint is a weekly piece from the perspective of The Spectator's staff members.