On generational navel-gazing

I am exhausted by fluffy, navel-gazing “news” stories that purport to explain and encapsulate an entire generation of Americans. These mostly focus on “Generation Y” or “The Millennials” these days, but comparisons also abound to “Baby Boomers” and “the Greatest Generation.” Almost always they either hyperbolically praise or criticize , and do so with either minimal or no evidence. The critical pieces in particular are frequently written by people not of those generations, which adds a fun extra layer of “you damn kids need to be told what’s wrong with you.”

A perfect case in point is this piece from the Huffington Post: Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy.

Let me paraphrase: a significant portion of Generation Y is arrogant, lazy, entitled and delusional; and thus are unhappy because they are arrogant, lazy, entitled and delusional, so stop it. Also, apparently all Generation Y-ers (or only the ones that count, I guess) are college-educated, middle or upper class, and (presumably) white.

Here’s the thing. People are complicated. Even just in the US, we live in widely varying social, economic and physical environments. We belong to different races and come from different cultures, often more than one of each. But even if you had two people who grew up in the same environment and came from the same cultural groups, that is no guarantee that they will behave identically, because people are complicated! To think one can take a group of diverse Americans who only share one attribute–they were born between two arbitrary dates– and somehow make meaningful inferences about that whole group, or a large portion of it, is ludicrous.

Let me put it another way.  Many Generation Y-ers may be arrogant, or lazy, or entitled, or delusional. Or all four. But so are many Generation X-ers. And Baby Boomers. And Greatest Generation-ers. Furthermore, there are members of all generations– Generation Y included– who are humble, hard-working, realistic and grounded. I’ve met them!

So can we stop with these pointless, stupid journalistic exercises please? All you are doing is manufacturing stereotypes.