Mr. Sensitive

May 13, 2013

Joel Stein Is Right About the Millennials

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 13:53

So here’s the cover of Time


which does a terrible disservice to Joel Stein’s article.  I say that Stein is right in his conclusion about the so-called Millennials for the simple reason that he doesn’t really come to a definitive conclusion.  The cover hints at some degree of balance in the assessment–lazy narcissists, yes, but they’ll save us?–but it skews negative, whereas the article itself is shockingly (to me) positive.  I came out of it feeling much better about the generation that’s following my own, and that’s not at all what I expected.  I understand that the purpose of the cover is to be provocative and arresting, but I also think it might be a test; a great deal of of the criticism of the article floating around the Internet is clearly based on the cover alone.  Doesn’t Stein realize every generation has complained about the morals of younger people, the Internet laments?  Yes, and he even includes a nice, big graphic about exactly that straddling pages 30 and 31.  Shouldn’t he try to appreciate the positive qualities of Millennials?  In fact, he tries a lot harder to appreciate them than I do, and he largely succeeds.  I highly recommend reading this article, if you haven’t.  Alas, it’s pretty long by Internet standards, which brings me to something which really concerns me: the pervasive inability and unwillingness to read, absorb, and process arguments and analyses of any significant length and complexity on the part of pretty much everyone.  The criticism of the Stein article itself reflects that problem, as there are obviously plenty of folks who read the cover and maybe the first few paragraphs (in which Stein reiterates negative stereotypes, setting up a subsequent reversal) and stopped there.  This state of serial distraction isn’t a Millennial problem–it’s an information technology problem.  The problem is that technology provides us with far more information than we can process productively and we haven’t–as a civilization–developed the discipline to judiciously slow the flow.  Ah, but we didn’t have traffic lights once upon a time–we’ll figure this out, too.

What is really amazing to me about the article is how eerily accurate the seemingly arbitrary line between Generation X and the Millennials seems to be in the context of my own family.  According to Stein’s article, the Millennials were born after 1980 and before 2000, meaning that my siblings and I straddle the line between generations.  If Stein is right, Marcus (’80) and I (’77) belong in Generation X, while Charlotte (’82) and Justin (’85) are Millennials.  (Yes, Marcus could go either way; I say he’s an X-man).  I’ll be damned if I don’t think that’s absolutely right.  It’s not as simple as Justin and Charlotte are Facebook people whereas Marcus and I are not…except it really is that simple.  Of course there are other significant differences between the four of us: the timing of our dad’s death (1993) meant that we grew up in (sometimes drastically) different circumstances; also Charlotte is a girl and girls are weird.  Nevertheless, Charlotte and Justin clearly have a different relationship with the outside world than Marcus and I do, and it didn’t occur to me before that some of that may be generational.  I’m not being critical, just making an observation.

I mean I absolutely am being critical, because that’s apparently something my people do.  Another takeaway from the Stein article: he doesn’t think much of Generation X.  He belongs to that generation, as do I, so we know lots of other Gen X people, and, in fact, we do mostly suck.




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