Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hatin' on the Millennials?

An article at Radar the other day (by a Gen Xer with an ax to grind) offers a "call to arms" against those good-for-nuthin' Millennials.

Generation Slap

They're naive, self-important, and perpetually plugged in. This is a call to arms against Millennials



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AND HE SHALL LEAD THEM ALL Generation Yer Kevin Colvin, caught on Facebook after telling his boss that he had to miss work for a "family emergency"

You Can Do Magic

Like many illustrious individuals before him who inadvertently stumbled into Internet stardom, Kevin Colvin became an overnight Internet celebrity by doing something stupid. In case you missed his five minutes of "fame," here's the story in a nutshell. A twentysomething intern, Kevin secured a job at Boston's Anglo Irish Bank. Using the guise of a family emergency, Kevin decided to take a day off and thus sent the following e-mail to his bosses, Paul and Jill:

Paul/Jill,

I just wanted to let you know that I will not be able to come into work tomorrow. Something came up at home and I had to go to New York this morning for the next couple of days. I apologize for the delayed notice.

Kind regards,
Kevin

Millennials are younger. Healthier. They got to do anal in high school. They think updating a spreadsheet while posting to a Twitter account about gossip on perezhilton.com is an essential corporate skillKevin's boss, Paul Davis, apparently decided to do a little a bit of detective work and found an incriminating photo of Kevin on Facebook. He discovered that Kevin wasn't in New York attending to an unexpected family crisis, but at a Halloween party in Worcester, Massachusetts.

And this is the clincher: In the picture, Kevin is dressed as Tinker Bell, decked out in a green ballet dress that looks like it was stolen from the wardrobe closet of an elementary school performance of Swan Lake. There's glitter and blue makeup enveloping his eyes. He's holding a gold, star-tipped wand in one hand and a can of Busch Light in the other. There are wings. In short, Kevin looks so high I wouldn't be surprised if he actually used those glittery, Day-Glo wings to fly away like a hummingbird after the picture was snapped.

Mr. Davis' response was swift and, well, perfect. Attaching Kevin's incriminating photo to an e-mail and BCCing the entire company, he responded:

Kevin,

Thanks for letting us know—hope everything is ok in New York. (cool wand)

Cheers,
PCD

When the technology blog valleywag.com posted the entire hilarious exchange, the story spread like a San Fernando Valley wildfire. It was everywhere.

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STRENGTH IN NUMBERS There are an estimated 80 million Millenials out there. And oh, how they are blogging

In Kevin's defense, most of us have lied to our bosses and played hooky. Still, I found myself hoping that his boss, Mr. Davis, fired him with a pointed "and don't let the door hit your wand on the way out!" for good measure. But before you dismiss me as cruel, let me explain my reasons.

My lack of empathy for Kevin comes from my sense of loyalty to the generation born between the years of 1961 and 1981. Generation X. Kevin is part of the generation born between 1982 and 2002—a Millennial, formerly known as Generation Y. (They got renamed after whining too much.) They're younger. They're healthier. They got to do anal in high school. They think updating a spreadsheet while simultaneously posting to a Twitter account about the latest gossip on perezhilton.com is an essential corporate skill. And, like Kevin, they're always doing stupid shit, but rarely getting called on it.

What's more, Millennials pose a vital threat to my generation's cultural legitimacy, not to mention our position in the workplace. A recent article in Time warns: "Older workers—that is, anyone over 30—need to know how to adapt to the values and demands of their newest colleagues. Before too long, they'll be the bosses."

You see? They're out to get us.

If you look at the sheer number of Millennials, the outlook is grim. While Gen X boasts only around 30 million members, there are an estimated 80 million Millennials out there. They're like pod people with Facebook accounts. We're outnumbered.

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MECCA The Apple Store, where Gen Yers congregate to kneel at the foot of Steve Jobs

That's why the time has come for Generation X to unite. We need to call bullshit on these naive, self-important crybabies trying to rob us of what is rightly our own. Remember how the Baby Boomers all turned into self-serving, narcissistic assholes who deified Michael Douglas in the '80s? The time has come for us to turn into assholes, too, minus the Michael Douglas part.
Read the rest.

I suspect this is mostly humorous, since the Millennials aren't really that bad, and in fact, might be more involved in creating a better world than my generation was (I'm an Xer). We're still working at it, though, so give us another 10 or 20 years before passing judgment.

This is from the Washington Post:
Millennials' political style is also similar to the GI generation's (born between 1901 and 1924). They aren't confrontational or combative, the way boomers (whose generational mantra was "Don't trust anyone over 30") have been. Nor does the millennials' rhetoric reflect the cynicism and alienation of Generation X, whose philosophy is, "Life sucks, and then you die." Instead, their political style reflects their generation's constant interaction with hundreds, if not thousands, of "friends" on MySpace or Facebook, about any and all subjects, increasingly including politics. Since they started watching "Barney" as toddlers, the millennials have learned to be concerned for the welfare of everyone in the group and to try to find consensus, "win-win" solutions to any problem. The result is a collegial approach that attracts millennials to candidates who seek to unify the country and heal the nation's divisions.

Unlike the young baby boomers, millennials want to strengthen the political system, not tear it down. According to a study last year by the Pew Research Center, most millennials (64 percent) disagree that the federal government is wasteful and inefficient, while most older Americans (58 percent) think it is. A 2006 survey by Frank N. Magid Associates indicated that millennials are more likely than older generations to believe that politicians care what people think and are more concerned with the good of the country than of their political party.

It also showed that millennials, more than their elders, believe that U.S. political institutions will deal effectively with concerns the nation will face in the future.

Some may see that tendency to trust that politicians care what people think as naive. It might be. But it beats the cynicism of my generation (we grew up with Reagan as president).

One of their virtues, however, may also be one of their weaknesses. This is from AlterNet:
And Millennials, say experts, "are unlike any other youths in living memory: More numerous, more affluent, better educated and more ethnically diverse than those who came before." Those words from William Strauss and Neil Howe, social scientists who coined the term "millennial" in their book Millennials and the Pop Culture (LifeCourse Associates, March '06).

Perhaps the most outstanding detail that distinguishes this generation -- from even those born just a couple of years earlier -- is their level of media consumption, particularly online. Today, the average teenager spends more than 72 hours a week using electronic media -- cell phones, internet, television, music and video games -- according to a 2006 study.

"There's an intense focus on openness, sharing information, as both an ideal and a practical strategy to get things done," explained Mark Zuckerberg, 23-year-old Millennial w√ľunderkind and founder and CEO of Facebook, in a recent interview with Fast Company. On Facebook.com, students log in daily to chat, flirt and connect -- the average user frittering away eight hours a month on the site.

All that time spent social networking has indoctrinated Millennials into the cult of groupthink, refashioning them into the most collaborative and team-oriented generation the world has seen in many a decade. This manifests in "a wide array of positive social habits that older Americans no longer associate with youth, including a new focus on teamwork, achievement, modesty and good conduct," say Strauss and Howe.

Groupthink is one of the most negative traits of the Boomers. It tends to result in everyone having a say and nothing getting done. But I think it might be premature to say that Millennials will exhibit this trait. I suspect they might be more diligent in testing alternatives and being more pragmatic in their decision making process.

This might be the first truly post-modern, relativist generation that can embrace the healthy aspects of this stage of development, rather than the Boomeritis of the last big generation to take over the country. Millennials might be egalitarian and communal, but I'm not convinced they are averse to hierarchy.

Ken Wilber, in an endnote for his book Boomeritis, says this about the millennials:
The Millennials are now hitting adolescence and early college years. Again, we are speaking generalities and stereotypes here, but unlike the Xers, the Millennials don't want to slack the system, but succeed in it. They don't particularly chafe against the rules, don't totally yawn in the face of their parents, appear more generally happy with society and are ready to accelerate in it, and tend to trust the system, more or less.
Wilber contends that this may be the first generation that can transcend the ethos of their parents in any significant way and move toward integral awareness (he cites 10% as the expectation for that generation to move into an integral stage of development).

Maybe. Maybe not. Still, the turnout of millennials in this election cycle (in support of Obama) has been heartening for an aging cynic such as myself. Maybe they can make a difference -- maybe they can change the system and the culture in a way their Boomer parents failed to do.


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