Millennials: The Gentle Generation(?)

I am not one to go easy on my own generation, Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation. I tend to be harsh. After all, these are the people I’ve grown up with and with whom I will grow old (God forbid). But for all my nay-saying despair, I really don’t think we’re that bad.

We have a ton of faults and annoyances. Our attention spans are minimal. We’re addicted to brief missives, the briefer the better. We are full of ourselves.

Of course our attention spans are short. We can hardly remember a time when the internet wasn’t. We get updates on our phones instantly. News breaks and we know about it within minutes. We never have to wait for anything.

We are full of ourselves because we were told we could achieve anything, and we did; we “Trophy kids” were awarded the prize of winner even when we came in dead last.

But when it comes down to it, for the most part, we get along with each other. We’re less judgmental. We’re gentle.

Sure, there’s still plenty of bullying that goes on in schools, but I was never aware of anything going on that came close to the mean-spirited attacks prevalent in A Christmas Story, Back to the Future, or Mean Girls. We’ve been trained to be accepting.

John Stossel, of course, gets it:

Older folks…complain that young people…spend hours playing violent video games, [so] violence is up.


…(over the past 20 years), youth violence dropped 55 percent. In Japan, kids spend more time playing violent games, and there’s even less violence. And in America, despite media hype, there are fewer school shootings now, not more.

My generation is also a creative one, because we’ve been encouraged to try things, and the word “failure” is foreign to us.

“Kids ‘can’t communicate’ because they text all the time?” Stossel writes, citing another common old folks’ complaint. “Recently, kids invented Facebook, YouTube, Firefox, Groupon, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and so on. They communicate something.”

Yes, yes we do. We may not be communicating deep, philosophical thoughts, but then again, “brevity is the soul of wit,” and 140 characters is brief. And for all our time being absorbed by the internet, we’re connecting. We aren’t communicating with ourselves, after all, but with other people, with each other.

It’s easier to connect with people nowadays, even people we don’t know, or only know vaguely. Doing so online creates natural distance, but is it better to create civil contact, albeit superficial, than none at all?

Gentleness is the character of our generation. Wikipedia’s description of Millennials states that theorists have predicted that “Millennials will become more like the ‘civic-minded’ G.I. generation with a strong sense of community, both local and global.We value family, community, and togetherness. A group with a tendency to herd together, possibly, but in a friendly way.

Millennials are being referred to as “Generation Me,” but I think it’s more accurately “Generation Us.” Our youth was one of shared experiences. Buzzfeed constantly posts listicles (millennial word) like this one: “25 Ways To Tell You’re A Kid Of The ‘90s.” Millions of us can read it, nod our heads, smile, and reminisce. We identify with the same things, and have never lost touch.

We even have our own sort of language which transcends social groups. Whether you’re a prep, a nerd, or an outcast, we have all been so intimately exposed to and aware of one another for so long, the boundaries between us are merely voluntary.

As usual, John Stossel gets us:

Old people always talk about the good old days. But the good old days were not so good. When I was young, more kids were intolerant, racist, sexist, and homophobic. They had little knowledge of life beyond their neighborhoods. Today, thanks to the Web and other innovations, life is better, not worse.

And as for narcissism, isn’t that a part of youth? As a brilliant millennial once said, (it was me), “It’s normal to think you’re the best before you’ve lived long enough to figure out that you’re far from it.”

Teresa Mull is the managing editor of Human Events.