The word “millennial” has garnered a hugely negative connotation over the last few years. For example, saying that millennials spend all of their time on their phones is a popular, low-hanging insult. But how do you even define who are and who aren’t millennials?
Looking up age ranges for the “Millennial generation” leads to so many conflicting reports. Even looking at one website (www.newsweek.com) I found four articles with four, different definitions for the start and end dates of the generation. Wherever you do draw the line though, I fall in the bracket. I’m 20 years old, so apparently, I’m stupid, lazy, and I think I’m a “special snowflake,” so that’s nice to hear.
If you don’t know, the phrase “special snowflake” is used a lot on the internet by mean, cynical, racist members of older generations (See? I can generalise too!). The basic argument behind it is that everyone in the millennial generation (also called Generation Y, because “millennial” is already starting to lose all meaning to me) sees themselves as a unique person in need of their own personalised treatment by the outside world. To be fair, I can see the basis of this argument, and I agree with it to a point. I’ve seen examples of people expecting the world to bend for them, when things just don’t work like that.
You have to be prepared for the possibility (or more realistically, inevitability) that not everyone else sees the world the same as you – but this is not just a millennial dilemma. It’s a problem with open-mindedness and empathy with which every generation struggles. The reason that we see it now more than ever is because we’re so interconnected online and we interact constantly with different people from different backgrounds. Even before, talking to people different to yourself might have only come from travelling, or working, or moving out of home – and by that age a lot of your views of the world had probably been confirmed a hundred times over by like-minded people in the same area.
However, the most jarring argument that I’ve heard made is this: “millennials all believe they’re individually more important and more interesting than other people.” This, one might argue, is why a lot of people in Generation Y make vlogs – to have a visual way of telling people about their interesting life which is better than everyone else’s. You could argue that, but I wouldn’t. I think there’s more to it.
Imagine, if you could for a second, that people of my generation generally don’t all hold themselves in the highest, ‘most-special’ regard. Imagine that actually, we’re quite an insecure bunch of people. It’s possible! Let me put it into real-life terms with some good, old roleplay:
Imagine you’re a kid in an age before the internet. Now let’s say that you’ve got a nice group of friends from school with whom you like to play a certain video game, and you’re the best of all of them. No, not that video game, imagine a different one. No, not that one either, I never liked that one. I don’t care if it was your favourite, imagine a better one. Ok, that one will do. So you can beat all of your friends at that game. And not only that, one day you go over to your friend Alex’s house and you beat Alex’s older sibling who’s the best of their friend group. Could you imagine beating one of the big kids at a game as a child? You’d feel like you’re the best there ever was at this game! You’d probably tell other kids from other towns as you grew up that you could beat anyone at it. And maybe by the time you get to secondary school or college, someone might beat you. That’s ok. At that stage you can take it.
What if you were shown at the very start, someone who was better than you’ll ever be? I’m talking about blow-your-mind-oh-my-god crazy good at this game. Would you still be so proud and happy about your skills? Or how about if, as a kid, you saw a video of someone singing with a voice of gold unlike anything you’d ever heard? This is a voice that would make an angel cry with its beauty, then feel bad for not being good enough. Is there any point in taking up singing with people who are so talented out there? This is The YouTube Effect.
I’m someone who uses YouTube every single day. I think that it’s an amazing platform, but it has without a doubt diluted what it means to have a certain talent, because now, there’s always someone better than you and everyone’s not only seen the video, but shared it with all of their friends. Gone is the blissful ignorance of thinking you’re anything more than above-average.
This is part of what it’s really like being a millennial. Being bombarded since we were kids with examples of people who are better than us at everything and anything we set our minds to. Sports? There’s some kid on YouTube who’s a prodigy at whatever you’re interested in. Music? Don’t even get me started. Even something completely niche that you didn’t realise was a talent until someone showed you. You know, like contortionist archery.
Oh, and that video game that you were the best in your town at? Just search its name and “speedrun” and prepare to be disheartened like the rest of us.