As we’re all quarantined away in our respective homes, I’ve found that I really spend a majority of my time thinking about the same few things. Usually, these are things such as what/when am I going to eat next, what home workouts can I plan on doing (but never actually do) in order to prevent myself from becoming fat, when is it socially acceptable to open my first beer of the day, and what is the best way to reach out to people I haven’t talked to in eight months, without bringing too much attention to the fact that I’ve made no effort to keep in touch with them, and am only now texting them because I’m unbelievably bored. But, there has been one thing in particular that I haven’t been able to get my mind off of, over the past couple of weeks.
It all started when those videos of spring breakers partying in Florida started to come out online, and get attention in the news, a few weeks back. The kids were obviously idiots, we all made our jokes, we had a good time laughing, and because it’s Twitter, we also had some people very seriously and very earnestly explain to their 113 followers why social distancing is important, and these videos were nothing to be joked about. These people then logged off, put on their “I’m a hero” hat, and waited for their standing ovation. After that initial response though, I saw something strange happen. Apparently, some of the older people criticizing these kids were referring to them as Millennials. That isn’t the strange part though, because as we all know, there is nothing people over the age of 45 love to do more, than complain about how Millennials are ruining the country. The thing that was strange, was the amount of people around my age who felt the need to correct these critics, by pointing out that the spring breakers were actually Gen Z, and not Millennials. Most of these people weren’t doing this in a joking manner either, they were genuinely upset at the older people who were making this mistake. They very angrily took to their Twitter accounts to let the world know that Millennials were worrying about student loans, paying their rent, and keeping their jobs during this time, not partying on a beach in Florida. I’m not saying these people aren’t correct because they are, but I am saying that if you feel the need to fervently defend your generation group, then you might have to reevaluate some things.
As I’m writing this, I can feel some of my peers disagreeing with me so allow me to extend an olive branch. First of all, I love being young and I too can get irritated when old people speak about younger generations without actually knowing anything about us. I can also get very frustrated when older generations ruin things we care about like Bernie’s chances of becoming president, or the health of our entire planet. Moreover, I very much enjoy laughing at the online lists and news stories that have titles like “10 Industries That Millennials Are Killing,” which basically just state that the sales of Applebee’s and Coors Light are down because we sometimes want to eat good food, and maybe drink a craft beer every once in a while. I’ll admit that I can occasionally even get a little bit annoyed by those lists as well. But, what I’ve never understood is the people who identify themselves by their generation or consider it to be a personality trait, as if the term Millennial is anything more than just a made up word used to describe a group of people born within the same 20 year span. My main point, if I have one at all, is that I think we should absolutely laugh at the older people who complain about Millennials—especially the ones who think that the term just applies to 18 to 24 year olds—but the moment we start taking it seriously, and feel the need to sincerely defend Millennials as a group, we lose and they win.
Perhaps the reason I don’t feel the need to defend Millennials in the same way that others do is because I honestly don’t know if I am one or not. I was born in 1996, and if you google “age range for Millennials,” you’ll find some articles that have the cut-off year as 1995, and others that have it as 1996. That confusion just adds to my larger point though, why are we taking any of this shit seriously if it’s all just made up? Listen, if you’re young and you think people around your age are smart and are going to do great things for the world one day, then I totally respect that. I’m just saying we shouldn’t be getting genuinely defensive about this stuff as if it really matters, or as if these terms are real, tangible groups that we’re actually a part of in any meaningful way. Furthermore, your generation label definitely shouldn’t be one of the main things you use to describe yourself. You’re not a Millennial, you’re fucking Ron, you’re 29 years old, and you live in Topeka, Kansas. You got a nice job at the Post Office, you like soccer, you know how to bake, and your favorite food is meatloaf. Hey, you’re fucking killing it Ron, you got a lot going for you, you don’t need to describe yourself using a made up label.
I understand why people take this stuff seriously though. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that we, as a society, fucking love groups and labels. I think it is because most of us go through life desperately searching for some sort of identity, in order to help deal with whatever weird insecurities are bouncing around our heads on a daily basis. This is why people, like myself, own t-shirts with pictures of our favorite bands, movies, and sports teams on them. We want to be able to walk around and present information that says, “this is what I like, this is the group I’m a part of.” It helps to be able to put this stuff on our clothing too, since we especially want to convey this information without actually having to talk to people, because … well fuck talking to people, ya know? We see this obsession with labels and identity in all aspects of our life. I mean, take politics for example. It’s an election year and the political discourse in this country can basically be summed up by people saying, “I’m on this side, so fuck the other side!” As annoying as this can get, I understand it. We all just want to feel like we’re a part of something, in one way or another. But, if you find yourself legitimately getting upset when people criticize your generation group, then maybe it’s time to find a hobby.
Edit: While I was doing some research for this blog, I found out that the generation after Gen Z is called Generation Alpha. Fuck being a Millennial, and fuck everything I said about not identifying yourself with these terms. From this point on, I identify as a member of Generation Alpha.