In recent years, there has been a notable rise, particularly in traditional press, of blaming millennials and Generation Z for almost any and every failing or shortcoming. The sheer excess of ‘Are millennials killing the … industry?’ headlines seem to suggest that all millennials are destructive, malicious creatures who seek to eradicate all traditional industries — and are often also caricatured as lazy and vain. However, ask any millennial or Gen Zer, and they will paint a very different picture.
The concept of blaming the generation that succeeds us is age-old, with evidence of it dating back to the fourth century BCE. However, the differences between today’s youth and their predecessors are more than cultural or ideological (although the differences in ideologies are sometimes staggering). The previous generation has caused terrible student loan debt crises, left the global market in disarray and made the dream of owning a home far-fetched for many young people. And still they have the audacity to blame their clutters on millennials’ partiality for avocado toast! A profound example of the generational gap that is behind this scapegoating.
A common example of the aforementioned is the Brexit vote. According to some statistics only 36 per cent of 18-24 eligible to vote actually did so; whilst a majority of over 60s voted and opted out. The media pounced on this, producing headlines such as ‘Young people — if you’re so upset by the outcome of the EU referendum, then why didn’t you get out and vote?’ — perpetuating the falsehood that millennials are lazy and dislike doing things for themselves.
In actuality, young people voted in much larger numbers than ever before; and overwhelmingly voted Remain — according to a study produced by Sam Wolfson. Notably, there has been a staggering emotional response by millennials via social media towards their older predecessors, with young people claiming that ‘baby boomers’ ‘screwed their generation’ — suggesting a collective sense of misrepresentation by the referendum.
The epithets that millennials are commonly shrouded in — lazy, entitled — have no basis in any sort of fact. What’s more, more millennials are following through with further education than any previous generation, despite having to pay significantly more than baby boomers and Generation X, as well as run the risk of being choked by debt. Furthermore, Millennials are often characterised as:
‘more civically and politically disengaged, more focused on materialistic values, and less concerned about helping the larger community’.
Well, this is simply untrue and has been disproven by recent events, such as the Stop Trump protests in London or the March For Our Lives. It is political movements like this that reveal the media’s double standard towards millennials.
Whenever millennials present a political opinion that diverges from their parents and grandparents’ opinions, they are labelled the ‘snowflake generation’. There is a preconception that young people are offended too easily, and have no sense of humour. But as a millennial concisely put it:
‘our generation spends all day laughing at memes; we just don’t find blatant racism or homophobia funny’.
The shift in ideologies has bred conflict, which is not unexpected. As an overarching generalisation, millennials are the most progressive and diverse generation yet; notably more tolerant than their ancestors. To baby boomers, this is easily misinterpreted as being sensitive and easily offended; and as such, they throw the term ‘snowflake’ with reckless abandon whenever opinion contrasts with their own.
To conclude, millennials have become the convenient scapegoats of a generation afraid of change and progress; who prefer to pass the blame around rather than accepting a rapidly shifting society.