It seems that you can’t go a day without having the words “entitled” or “lazy” stapled to the collars of the younger generations. There always seem to be talk about how Millennials, and the younger generations, are failing in comparison to the older generations that have passed. Youtube is filled with videos finding humor in this, while Fox News has a rotating seat of grey haired, seemingly bitter individuals ranting about how this generation has no place next to the generation of the “good ol’ days”.
First, obviously there are differences between generations, as there are differences between individuals. Therefore, this tension is no new thing. How do you think parents returning from WWII felt to see their kids participate in the drug induced haze that was the 60’s? I assume there were some choice words for that generation as well. Looking back, the present always seems to be worse, at least in comparison to how we feel now. This is because we look back on the past favorably. We get nostalgic about the “good times”, seeing youth as a time of freedom, instead of a time of confusion and recklessness. This is the same thing that is occuring with the generational tension. The older generations are painting their own pasts as a multicolored masterpiece, instead of the confusion, youthful laziness, and poor decisions that it really was. Then, when the new generations follow the same path (just in a different manner) of finding themselves via reckless choices and an array of jobs, it is looked down upon and ridiculed on every media outlet available.
But, millions of people can’t all be wrong, can they? Maybe there is some truth to the “anti-millennial” jargon that we so often hear. One major obvious difference is technology. Before technology, our circles were small. Our friends lived close, and our parents or close adults were our role models. If our parents, or close friends made poor decisions and did not use their platform as a role model effectively, then this created issues. Because our worlds were so small, we didn’t know that there were options other than what we saw in front of us everyday. If our parents were not good people, it seemed we would emulate them. While this is still true, technology does allow youth in tough situations to find role models, and find hope from outside sources, which is obviously a good thing.
The issue seems to be though, that now with access to the whole world in our palms, those role models we are selecting are not always the best people for us to look up to. We hold up people with money, cars, and societal attractiveness, despite what they preach. This criteria for fame, this desire for material possessions, or to be pretty, or to do whatever we want, allows people who may have a poor moral conscious, but a lucky or rich background to become famous. Therefore, our youth see these famous people as role models, and begin to emulate their behavior.
Some of the famous youtubers, or rappers, or musicians, or “personalities” who use their platform to objectify women and spew language that is not viable to personal growth have a direct, sometimes even more direct, connection, or means of communication with our youth today than most parents. Therefore, youth see these people as role models, as having what we define as success (money, cars, etc) and youth try to behave like them.
This is why there are children who now want to be “youtube stars”, or rap about violence and drugs, or things most of them have never seen. This is why women are treated so poorly, and violence is held so highly, because this is what we have selected as values for our role models. This is why we have women posing provocatively on the internet, or youth more focused on hitting an 100 day streak on snapchat than learning anything. This is why we tend to film our world through our phone, instead of live it through our eyes. This is why we see so many outstretched arms, or heads looking down, because this is what our role models do.
Imagine, if we as a society, shifted our values. If we stopped valuing things like get-rich-quick schemes, or “easy” lives full of glamorous luxuries. Imagine if we valued hard work, or moral niceties, or a good conscious, imagine who we would hold up as idols, and imagine who our youth would emulate.
Imagine if names like Ryan Holiday, Jordan Peterson, or Dale Carnegie packed as much of a punch as names like Kim Kardashian, or Logan Paul. Imagine if we taught our youth that what was important was love for the world, wisdom for the mind, and care for the people, instead of money for their pockets.
Maybe the generational issues come from a dramatic shift in role models. Maybe people born in the “modern” world expect a different standard of life than those born in previous generations did, because this standard of life is what is broadcasted all around them. Maybe youth nowadays are lazy, entitled, and can’t seem to hold their head up, or put any effort into anything that is not an app.
But I don’t think so. There is no difference in work ethic, but a stark difference in expectations. There is no difference in potential, but a vast difference in what this potential is aimed towards. Instead of a steady, safe life, maybe we expect a wild, exciting life, and our parents can’t seem to understand that (so they say we are lazy because we don’t hold down one career our whole lives). Maybe we expect to enjoy our work, when our parents just expected to work.
We should not be upset at what our youth’s goals are, but at how they go about them. We should not spend millions of dollars, and hours of lectures attempting to get our youth to value what we or our parents valued (because that will never happen). We should use these resources not to instill “good” goals into our youth, but to have them behave in a morally “good” way in hunt of these goals.
The world is changing, and already has. The future occupations are changing, and soon will be ran by these youth that can’t seem to avoid mirror selfies and snap-chats, but our moral compass should not. If we can teach our youth better values, not better goals, then they (and in turn us, as a society) can select better role models. But there must be patience, so whatever side we find ourselves on, whatever tension we feel in our homes, whenever the youth seem to be driving us crazy, ask ourselves who raised them?