Our generation is lazy. Our generation is self-entitled. Our generation are snowflakes. We can’t survive without the steady, satisfying shimmer of a screen. An hour without internet and all hell breaks loose. We’ve lost respect for ourselves, others, and most importantly- anyone who’s not us.
Well, that’s what some would have you believe, anyway.
The shaming of our generation and utilising it as some kind of scapegoat has become commonplace. Normalised. In those few years between the ‘Millenial’ and ‘Gen Z’ generations, where many current university students fall, there is a gap. Many of us are not true millennials, having been born after 1996, but we are still 90s kids (or should that be kidz?). We bought and forgot about our Tamagotchis, traded Beyblades and Pokemon cards, listened to the Spice Girls, or Nirvana if you were actually cool. We caught the tail end of the decade of which brought us Friends and Crash Bandicoot video games. But we were also one foot into the next generation, too. Afternoons watching Disney Channel at the house of whichever of your friends had it, getting to know Hannah Montana and her crew. We weren’t quite old enough to remember exactly where we when tragedy struck in New York on 9/11. We put concealer on our lips and learned ALL the words to Flo Rida’s Low despite being years too young to get into any club. We’re also the generation suffering the most from loneliness.
Perhaps it comes down to miscommunication and misunderstanding. It’s not difficult to see why that might be an issue. Even regarding the most basic things, there is a huge difference in how we, as twenty-somethings, go about our lives comparatively to former generations when they were in their twenties. So far so obvious, right? And young people are fodder for the media. In 2016 it came out that millennials weren’t buying fabric softener. Headlines touting millenials as the ‘killers’ of Proctor and Gamble and other such companies. Shocked business journals and companies were at a loss over the drop in fabric softener sales, as though it was some kind of reckless decision on out part. They looked on in shock as they realised that maybe we are responsible for our consumer choices. Who knew? And it’s not just fabric softener. Our generation is also known as ‘generation rent’. Fewer and fewer of us are likely to buy a house. Of course, there are many factors in this, besides sheer will either to buy or not. The average house price in the UK currently is £220,000, which is ten times the national average income, unlike in the mid-80s, when, at £31,000 the average house price was roughly four times the average wage.
Not that criticism of the youth is new in any way. Young people, are still frequently lambasted for decisions we make (to be fair, I can understand the despair of older generations when we started fixating over orange spray tans and frosted tips, see Justin Timberlake). But being attacked for the ‘downfall’ of bars of soap amongst other things is a bit over the top.
As for other criticisms levelled at us, once again, it appears to be over a misunderstanding. People complained that reading newspapers in public places was causing people to be antisocial last century, and now the complaint is of phones and tablets. There will always be criticism of the youth and technology. But it turns out that the young and the old not only have lots in common, but that they can mutually benefit from this. In a pretty adventurous program launched a few years ago in the Netherlands, groups of students shared accommodation with elderly members of society in an effort to combat loneliness. Despite technology making us ever more omnipresent and omniscient, the Office for National Statistics showed that young people are far more likely to feel lonely or isolated ‘always or often’, than any other age category- the elderly included. And yet in these housing schemes, the reports came back with stories of positive relationships between the two generations. The expectation was that the students would cause problems by having parties and being too loud, but the real source of noise were the radios of the elderly turned up so loud. When students returned at 6am from parties elsewhere, they might be met by the older residents starting their day, and keen to have a share of the gossip from the parties.
Obviously the answer here is to have more nights out, and be prepared to have a natter about it with Mabel from next door.