To put together his Time cover story, “The Me Me Me Generation,” Joel Stein used the overabundance of personal information present on the internet to exploit the millennial generation, and to perpetuate the age old adage that life was better back in the good old days (see the Satyricon for a very early example). And since a disproportionate amount of young people are savvy with new technology, and are more likely to use it, it must have been simple for Joel Stein to compile the evidence he needed to bash the younger generation. But the millennials did not invent this technology; it grew with us, and still does. It was fed to us at every age, changing every few years to something new we would have to adapt to. And with older people’s lack of an ability to operate new technological devices as well as the younger generation can, it seems new devices were aimed at us. We do not exist in a vacuum, we live in the world left to us by the previous generations, and yes that includes you Joel Stein.
If you have not read the article, you should endure the 10-15 minutes it takes to sit there and critically examine his writing. Stein is extremely aggressive in the beginning of his piece, as he starts tearing the “millennial generation” to shreds. He suggests that millennials are narcissistic, lazy, entitled, and insists on letting the readers know that he has data to back him up. And it is not just rich American kids that comprise the Me Me Me Generation, “poor millennials have even higher rates of narcissism, materialism, and technology addiction in their ghetto fabulous lives,” and thanks to globalization and the exportation of Western culture, millennials all around the world are included in the group. Stein casts a wide net, and lets a large deal of problems faced by the millennial generation go unnoticed in his article.
Stein seems to insinuate that the fate of the millennial generation was predetermined being that the millennial generation was born from the Baby Boomer generation, or the original Me Generation. It must be coincidental that “narcissistic personality disorder” was formulated in 1968, just as the Baby Boomers were coming of age. Considering that the original Me Generation was a group born to privileged parents, it is difficult to believe that Stein’s argument can take into account the less affluent in our society and those abroad. Baby Boomers emerged into a manipulated environment in which suburbanization was glorified and encouraged through government policy, and the original Me Generation was likely part of the same group Stein mentioned who gained power during the Industrial Revolution. Low-income and minority populations of our country were never granted special privileges by the government like that which was legislated during the New Deal Era, instead their homes were destroyed and they were crammed into low-income housing created by public-private partnerships.
And the Me Me Me Generation was born into a generation in which we have been bombarded by technology and advertising since we could follow a sensible train of thought. When we were in school it was not an option to do math in our head, it was a requirement that students be prepared with calculators for class. Just because a study concludes that more people ages 18-29 live with their parents than with a spouse does not mean that millennials are mooches nor lazy. Globally young people are more likely to be unemployed than adults, and that is more likely a consequence of a global recession as opposed to the entire worlds young adults being lazy. Millennials have been trained and taught the essential skills to navigate the post-industrial world that is run by technology; but the world we’ve been given has no jobs to offer us. It seems the life that preceding generations anticipated us to inherit was not delivered, and previous generations blame the millennials for mistakes not made by the new generation. Chris Hayes explained it brilliantly in his book, Twilight of the Elites, that the last decade has been a fail decade. Corruption and failure of the elite in every part of American society has left the millennials a bad hand, in which it is near impossible to be the achievers we were trained to be.
Joel Stein should have abandoned this endeavor, because it was not a piece that was worth working a year on. He should have instead used his platform to address the countless challenges imposed upon the new generation, and been proactive in changing a generation he perceives as flawed. This piece is an unjust assault on young people, and Stein along with previous generations should take the time to ponder the circumstances that millennials have been left with. If you had to clean up the mess of countless generations that preceded you, I’m sure you would want to distract yourself with technology all the time too.