A few weeks ago I accidentally found myself surrounded by millennial college students. I was walking by the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. after the Georgetown vs. UNC-Wilmington basketball game when I overheard a group of millennials talking.
“We’re different than other generations. People aren’t used to how we talk to each other. We’re more brash.”
“You’re so right, you c*nt!”
They all laughed. I was stunned by their lack of self-awareness. Apparently, they’ve censored themselves so much that all that’s left are curse words. This is a generation more offended by Christianity than “c*nt.”
At the heart of their lack of self-awareness is the ability to build an environment that doesn’t offend them. Thanks to media niches, smartphones, and parents, millennials live a curated life. I expect this sort of narrow-minded life from the Left, but I’m disappointed that I’ve seen conservatives give into the curated life, too.
Recently an acquaintance posted a Facebook status about a political issue. The topic escapes me, but I think she wrote something along the lines of “I’m smarter than Trump voters.” A friend commented on the status. He wasn’t mean-spirited or derogatory, but maybe slightly antagonistic to make a point. A couple others chimed in, mostly supporting the original poster. (By the way, summarizing the plot of Idiocracy does not make you a clever political commentator.) My friend won the exchange using humor that made everyone else’s “Trump is popular and the world is ending!” exasperation even more absurd. Thirty minutes later the post was deleted. That is the thought process and life of a millennial. She was made uncomfortable, so this moment no longer exists.
Not only do they curate their social interactions – keep the ones with “You go, girl” comments, lose the ones where someone proves them wrong – they also expect praise for curating in lieu of creating. There are a slew of Instagram stars who are famous for putting together an outfit or gathering a few items and arranging them around a Mason jar. They didn’t produce anything. They gave it their millennial stamp of approval and therefore they must be praised!
It’s easy to say millennials are terrible Obama-voters (an insult that could easily replace nose-picker, mouth-breather and nerf-herder), but it’s actually more than that. The real problem is that society as a whole is embracing the millennial behaviors that lead to a curated, counterfeit life.
People of all ages now bring their family and personal drama to public forums. Friends “like” their comment or say they’re right. Now everyone thinks they’re right and no one takes responsibility for their own actions or admits to being wrong. They’ve created a Facebook flock of yes-men.
Elected officials pose for selfies and do stupid Vine videos to appeal to young voters. Guess what? They aren’t making people vote for you, they’re just giving legitimacy to Insta-celebrities with no other work skills. I don’t know who has the most curated fantasy life – politicians who think they’re in touch with constituents just because they held a selfie-stick or Insta-celebrities who think they contribute to the world.
In my recent podcast interview with TV host and author Cam Edwards, he revealed that his daughter wanted to move home after losing her job, but he insisted she stay in her apartment because it would be a better motivator for finding a new job. Cam is a Gen Xer. Instead, many Boomer parents allow their children to live at home to find their “passion” rather than insisting they get any job that will pay the rent. Here’s some shocking news: most people don’t get paid to practice their passion. In the 1983 movie The Big Chill, Boomers were already lamenting that they gave up their bleeding heart passions in order to pay a mortgage and become productive citizens. Now Boomers are telling themselves that nursing dependence makes them good parents. Perhaps these Boomer fathers would be more insistent on an empty nest if they didn’t have low-T.
Though I’m a proud Gen Xer, we’re not immune from the millennial culture takeover. I see tons of Facebook photo albums of baby pictures and family vacations that make parenthood look like an extended trip to Disney World where no one gets sleepy or cranky or stuck in a three hour line for a mediocre ride that’s meant to sell you merchandise.
Curating a fantasy life that’s free from political disagreements, free from reminders that we can be wrong, free from uncomfortable feelings, or free from moments that aren’t photographed is not real life. Millennials aren’t more “brash” or honest. They’re curating a life that delays their independence. Those uncomfortable moments of learning that you’re wrong or struggling to pay rent make you a better person. The sooner millennials and others step away from a curated, online life and enter the authentic, painful, wonderful world the better off we’ll all be.