Back in my day, we had to walk uphill both ways to go to school in the sweltering heat and ten feet of snow. Kids these days have it so easy with their fancy technology and cars and whatnot.
Everyone is familiar with at least one old curmudgeon always parroting this same, tired story, reminiscing about the “good ol’ days.” The older generations are constantly complaining about the youngest generation having it easy, and that the young adults are lazy, among other unwanted attributes.
Generations did not always have the definition they do today. When the word first came into use in the early nineteenth century, the word “generation” was used to describe the male relationships within families, but beginning in the 1800s, the term began to change meaning. In the second half of the century, the word begun to describe the difference between those who are older and the youths, a way to define coevals.
Having concrete generations became helpful in the 20th century, as intellectuals began grouping society together in different ways in order to observe similarities and differences. Naming and categorizing generations was also helpful, as older generations saw their time to make a true impact in society was over by their thirties or forties; by that age, they wanted to step aside for the next generation.
However, at the same time, these older generations judged the up-and-coming generation, always believing their generation had been the best and this new, younger generation was headed in a negative direction.
As George Orwell once said, “every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”
The older generations of today (mostly the Baby Boomers, born between 1943 and 1960) constantly voice their disapproval of the Millennial generation, born between 1982 and 2004, saying this young generation is the decline of work ethic, threatening, entitled, selfish and shallow.
Many surveys have been done on the various generations to enforce this view of the Millennial Generation, finding these young adults are more worried with personal appearances and pop culture than work ethic and a stable job, which is what older generations always seem to focus on.
In a survey of 15 Millennials, one hundred percent of participants felt older generations viewed their generation as irresponsible with money, lazy, entitled, and narcissistic. However, this hostility toward the younger generation, or juvenoia, has not suddenly cropped up with the tension between Baby Boomers and Millennials.
Juvenoia has existed from the beginning of the human race, with Aristotle claiming youths’ mistakes were due to them thinking they knew everything to the 1871 issue of the Sunday Magazine disapproving of the young generation “firing off” short notes to one another, rather than taking the time to write lengthy letters.
Blaming the younger generation for being narcissistic, lazy, and entitled is old news. The front cover of the 1976 New York read “The ‘ME’ Decade,” calling the young coevals a “grand puzzle of the 1970s.” The same year, The New York Times claimed college youth are too busy “navel gazing” to bother about the upcoming election. The magazine Swing’s 1996 issue printed in red ink “Generational Warfare” with subtitles such as “Will They Kill The Economy?” and “Boomers vs. Xers.”
Hamilton Nolan, author of “Study: Every Generation Is Exactly The Same So Get Over Yourself” is quick to retort, asking the older generations why they believe their generation is “inherently special” compared to the thousands that came before.
The belief that one’s generation is always the best, even as they age, their preferences simply changing in order to reaffirm this notion is overwhelmingly common. Humans’ sense of uniqueness, is in fact, not unique.
In reality, the current generation of young adults is acting the exact opposite as every petulant, opinionated Baby Boomer is claiming. Productivity has skyrocketed in the last ten years, but the only thing missing is a similar increase in pay.
The myth of Millennials being irresponsible spenders when it comes to shopping is also debunked, as non-parents spend more compared to their parent counterparts, no matter the generation. The Millennial Generation is actually performing the best out of all generations thus far: test scores are up, teen pregnancy is down, drug use is down, and school violence is down.
13 of 15 of those surveyed believed the Millennial Generation was not a threat to society, unlike older generations seem quick to believe. This generation is proving those older wrong, yet they must still face the wrath of the generational gap.
Most of these wide generalizations of the generation stem from what columnists and other magazine journalists view as the typical Millennial, their magazine intern, who is a stereotypical “rich kid:” a child who is arrogant, narcissistic, and spoiled. From this small, skewed pool of young adults, writers inaccurately view the young generation and proceed to fulminate against them in their fifty-cent-a-word articles.
Claims to an increase in narcissism among the younger generation are wildly inaccurate. Older people are quick to agree with these statements, but confuse the accusation for a changing generation with the fact that younger people are merely more narcissistic than they are.
This misunderstanding leads to a larger chance that older generations will agree with the time and again “Generation Me” argument put forth despite its lack of empirical evidence.
Children develop late into their teenage years. It is well known that the brain continues to develop until adolescence, so how can the older generations expect youths to be fully functional when their brains are not yet fully formed? Instead, adults choose to prematurely judge the young generation based on how they act as teenagers.
Yet, if juvenoia has continued to occur for all of humankind, there must be some advantage to the constant worrying and pestering of the newest generation.
This feeling of resentment exists because adults prefer the way they were raised as the safe or correct way to live. Humans are afraid of change; they distrust anything different. By definition, parents were a reproductive success, so it makes perfect sense as to why they would feel like they have expert knowledge on how to live one’s life.
Another reason juvenoia persists is due to the brain remembering the past abstractly; the mind is able to remember the general way things happened, but not every single detail. This phenomenon is what causes people to believe music or television was better in the past, because they are only recalling the good, and merely forgetting the bad or boring.
Even though juvenoia has been seen to be evolutionarily advantageous in the older generations’ minds, it does not help those it targets. The constant criticizing negatively affects the youths’ self-esteem and needs to stop. Perhaps Millennials will be the first to break this cycle of generation-bashing, otherwise imagine how difficult it will be for Generation Z to mature.
Follow Angela Garza on Twitter: @angarza15