By: Christina La Rosa, Staff Writer
People have always complained about younger generations. It is an age old argument, and it is just as meaningless now as it has been in the past. The rise of technology spurred a sudden shift in our culture and created a clear divide between the generation that grew up with technology and the generation that did not. Baby Boomers do not hesitate to point this out, often resentfully. Their common criticism is that Millenials and Gen Z are lazy, vapid and entitled, but this criticism is unfounded and counterproductive.
Boomers often claim that young people are too focused on technology and social media, which has created a narcissistic generation. While social media can have a toxic influence and there is a level of technological dependence, this is not an addiction that affects strictly Millenials and Gen Z. A study by Colorado University found that Baby Boomers spend on average two hours more on the internet than those between the ages of 16 and 34. Evidently, technology has become essential in daily life, not just for young people.
In addition, a common Boomer talking point is the “participation trophy” issue. The argument hinges on the idea that because Millenials and Gen Z grew up receiving participation trophies for playing sports or entering science fairs, so they feel entitled in other aspects of their life. This argument has no real foundation for when a child receives a participation trophy, they don’t feel like they won something. Even a child can tell the difference between winning a game and receiving a piece of plastic at the end of the season; it is a memento, not a victory. These trophies do not impact our value system; what affects our character is the experience.
The entitlement Boomers claim is so characteristic of young people is made doubtful by the challenges young people face that the Boomers never had to worry about. For example, the price of college has increased dramatically since the Baby Boomer’s time, and applying to colleges has become far more competitive despite the fact that attending college is necessary for the competitive job market. Not to mention, the economy suffered an intense crash only a decade ago and is still recovering; other challenges include an affordable housing crisis, climate change and a decrease in government support. By all accounts, this younger generation is working harder than the past generation to succeed in America, “lazy” seems an unfair distinction.
Corporations who are frustrated with the “lack of work ethic” in young employees have likely popularized this criticism. For years, companies have taken advantage of typically young, entry level workers. However, the rise of technology has made it increasingly easier to self-employ, and many young people will not stand this mistreatment. Complaining about “entitlement” is simply complaining about the empowerment of young people.
These complaints usually arise from a shift in values. For the Baby Boomer generation, a happy life may have necessitated a white picket fence, a nine-to-five job and two children by the time they were 30. That is not so much the case for younger generations. Technology has facilitated new and innovative ways to make a living that may not align with the traditional lifestyle. Younger generations look to meaningful work rather than stable, lucrative jobs and they place high value on a good work-life balance. There are always going to be cultural shifts as the years go on, and there will always be members of the older generations who resent these changes. But we need to stop our tradition of isolating generational criticisms; without intergenerational understanding, this conversation will never serve progress.