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Thanks for the trophies, folks

By Blake Bradford
May 02, 2017

 Life is so much more fun when there’s a scapegoat. In today’s society, everyone is quick to throw blame, yet the line to accept responsibility for society’s ills is even shorter than Miley Cyrus’ career. Almost every other day, a new viral video comes out explaining why millennials are the cause of society’s inevitable downfall into anarchy. Nobody is really looking forward to a world where the only reliable source of heat will be burning participation trophies, but few could blame society for choosing such a worthy target. There are millions of problems to be solved, so it’s only fitting to tag them onto the largest living generation.

Millennials' technological fluency has spawned accusations of social disconnection, but that's nothing new for innovation. Photo by Blake Bradford. Millennials' technological fluency has spawned accusations of social disconnection, but that's nothing new for innovation. Photo by Blake Bradford.

          Endless accusations of laziness have been lovingly dropped onto millennials with the tenderness of a falling piano. This generalization, however, is even lazier than the false image it promotes. A 2016 study conducted by the online research panel GfK identified millennials as the demographic most likely to refuse vacation time at work, making up 43 percent of all individuals displaying traits of “work martyrdom”. The false narrative of lazy youth is even forced upon those that haven’t had the opportunity to choose whether to work or to stay at home and binge watch The Office for the fifth time. Entry-level jobs are becoming an endangered species as businesses continue to raise qualifications in response to the flooded job market. How can a new graduate be to blame for not being eligible for a position requiring five years of experience?

       The false laziness narrative isn’t the only undeserved label that’s been pinned to millennials. A hallmark of this generation’s collective identity is its supposed sense of entitlement. Since its adoption as the popular opinion within recent years, it’s become quite apparent that entitlement isn’t unique to millennials. Every generation has had multiple periods of what can only be described as entitlement. Participation trophies, a favorite target of millennial critics, were created to spare Gen X’s egos when their children failed to meet their parental expectations. During the Summer of Love, millions of baby boomers rejected societal expectations and personal hygiene to protest for a life of peace that they had been promised by the previous generation. When something, or someone, is complaining, it’s a symptom of a greater problem, not a cry for free handouts. Nobody looks down at their own sore ankle and yells at it to get a job and stop freeloading off of the knee. Instead, they do what any sane person would do, and go to a doctor for treatment. In the case of millennials, this would be to revise the current economic policy so that they can share in the same security that past generations took for granted.

       Few could have predicted the rise of social media within the past decade, yet almost everyone is willing to blame millennials for using it as a replacement for human interaction. It’s a strange world where families long for nights when everyone would gather around the TV to watch Hallmark movies when just 50 years ago, the same activity would be declared the beginning of societal decline. New technology is always going to be disruptive, as innovation is disruptive by definition. Every generation has a new boogeyman that threatens to destroy all that is good and holy. Even written language, probably the most significant invention in human history, was declared an abomination during its early years. Regardless of the complaints of previous generations, millennials are guaranteed to carry on the tradition of texting, pinning, tweeting, snapping, and ignoring each other on public transportation. The best response to innovation is to adapt rather than be left behind, as history has shown.

       If there were an easy solution to smoothly integrate millennials into today’s culture, it would have already been done. The path laid in place by Gen X’s technological breakthroughs has birthed today’s fertile environment for invention, and technology is only going to grow as millennials carry on the tradition. It is not the fault of the generation inheriting these advances that contemporary culture is being molded into something new. Neither millennials, nor Gen Xers nor baby boomers are entirely innocent, but the weight of our collective failures should not be placed onto the largest target simply out of convenience. Scapegoats are fun, but they degrade relationships and prevent progress for the sake of sparing personal ego. By all means, go home and snap your sister a picture of that Unicorn Frappuccino. Text your parents, tell them how glad you will be to see them this summer. Show your grandparents how your Facebook account helped you discover that big internship. Our world still has plenty of room for each generation to coexist peacefully. All that’s needed is a little patience.

Blake Bradford

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Blake Bradford is a student at MidAmerica Nazarene University and a reporter for The Trailblazer.

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