Riffing on the millennial beat, the Los Angeles Times returns to a previous column on a “millennial pledge.” This time, however, the paper gave a better analysis.
For Ann Friedman, she takes a long view: “the temptation to define and judge younger generations is easy to understand: We are anxious about the future.”
Millennial criticism isn’t about millennials so much as it is about what will happen as time passes. Younger generations personify the concern and uncertainty, so they bear the brunt of concern-turned-criticism. If those kids don’t shape up soon, society will fall and the Social Security coffers will dry up.
Interest in millennials will fade as they age: talk about a generation doesn’t seem as relevant when that generation is working and producing. It’s only when they’re filled with youth or aging into benefits that the conversation picks up.
There’s something manufactured about generations anyway. The label is convenient, but when millennials have grown to include 75 million people in the United States, generalizations get murky. Assuming generations exist divides the American population into recognizable patterns. It spurs theories on what a generation values or how it’s different. Sometimes, those differences are real and meaningful. Millennials and baby boomers use the internet differently, and their expectations for the future differ.
The meaningful differences between generations crowd out the variety among age groups, though. Differences in geography, wealth, race, and interests could make a millennial more familiar to a baby boomer than to an age-appropriate peer. With 75 million millennials running around the country, the diversity of experiences in life make simplification dangerous.
Before long, millennials will be the ones complaining about youth and waxing philosophically on the great strides for progress their generation made when they were young. When the younger generations get scolded for squandering their birthright, it should be interpreted as a mechanism for coping with change and the future. Unless millennials get it right and the youth are ruining the country.