Man at His Best

The Big Question: Why Do Millennials Get So Much Stick?

What did they ever do to you?

BY Patrick Chew | Jul 13, 2016 | Culture

First of all, I’m a millennial. I reckoned that needed to be made known from the very get-go. What I don’t reckon is needed, however, is to join many of my contemporaries in saying, “I’m a proud millennial”, because, quite frankly, there is really nothing about being born between 1982 and 1998—incidentally something I had no control of—to be proud of. 

It’s perhaps something to be grateful for. After all, I’m part of a generation of people who, by and large, were given greater access to education, freedom of choice, and the Internet, something that has made information move faster that it ever had. 

But over the years, millennials have managed to piss quite a lot of people off. I can’t tell you how many dinners I’ve had to sit through and listen to the older generation generalise young people these days as “lazy”, “impatient”, “entitled”, “narcissistic” and “general pains in the ass”. 

At its very core, I reckon it all comes down to the older and far wiser folks’ displeasure and dissatisfaction with this generation’s work ethic—that millennials think too much and do too little and expect to get what they think they deserve rather than actually working for what they had to earn and paying their dues. 

The truth is this negative sentiment toward millennials isn’t unique to the generation; it’s unique to young people, as a whole. Young people, in general, are naive, wildly optimistic and tend to get ahead of themselves, which can manifest to make them lazy, impatient, entitled, narcissistic and general pains in the ass. 

It’s a millennial thing, yes, but it’s only a millennial thing right now because millennials right now are young. Everyone’s a bit of an idiot and does stupid things when they’re young (not an excuse but, from the way I see it, a rite of passage)—we can only hope that doesn’t last forever. 

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We asked another millennial, and a couple of non-millennials what they thought.

Anita Kapoor, TV Host, writer, advocate
“Millennials have self-confidence in droves, information at their fingertips and an ease with the world as it is. These three aspects make people outside of the age group, somewhat uncomfortable. Furthermore, these characteristics, at their worst, can reek of the self-entitled, lazy, and arrogant. I belong to the generation on the cusp—we saw the advent of everything that is today par for course, and we also had to learn first hand and without technical advancements, how to adopt and operate new technology, new streams of consciousness and new global ideas. So frankly, what we have, millennials need, and what they have, we need—or need to remember to utilise. 

I’m, however, uncomfortable with the polarised idea that millennials have somehow singlehandedly changed the world just by being the younger set with bright ideas and quick thinking; as with centuries past, there is always a new set of brains and ideas—technology just made it all happen in double time.”

Cordelia Fernandez, Polytechnic Lecturer
“I believe it always points back to the disparity between people of different ages—if you’ve experienced life one way and lived by certain values that have helped you to succeed, it can be bewildering to encounter a group of people who apparently live a totally different life by very different principles

What I find difficult to reconcile is how unfocused they seem. Recent batches of students never seem to do one thing at a time. At any one time they’re listening but not really, watching some video on their computer, chatting with some friend and answering texts on their phone. And then they’ll ask me something I explained just five minutes ago. Or they’ll ask me again the next day. They’re not rude or disrespectful, but their attention appears fractured and splintered, which is annoying to any lecturer. When I insist that all gadgets are put away, they appear to be almost in pain from having to focus on just one thing!

They also seem incredibly needy. They need to be reminded, to be cajoled, to be praised, to be helped. It’s not that that’s unfair – all students need that – but as I meet a new wave of students every year, it seems to me that they seem to require it far beyond what my former students seemed to require. They seem to suffer from a crisis of confidence that former students didn’t, or certainly not as badly.

The kind of help they need has also changed ... my first few batches of students required clear instruction and pointing in the right direction. The questions they asked were broader and had to do with the issues raised in the subject matter – the questions I get now I term Mickey Mouse questions: “If I leave this out, is it okay? Do I have to cite this? If I speak for less than 5 minutes, is it okay?” They just seem to want to know if they’re okay and get very agitated if they’re not.”

Suffian Hakim, Author
“This generation succeeded in creating a highly complex socioeconomic juggernaut, fuelled by technology and facilitated by the cityscape. We are constantly connected via superfast mobile connections, in which our decisions—from the personal to retail-based ones, can be made and executed in a matter of seconds (even less if you're in a place with fantastic WiFi). This culture of always being connected, at fast speeds of information transference, has allowed our economies to burgeon, just as our social media feeds do.

Millennials get so much stick because they need to take selfies. I think it is unfortunate that the media most available and accessible to them is social media, a platform that proliferates narcissism by giving them a place to answer questions that have never been asked such as, "Hey, how do you look like with a retarded pout on your face?" or "What does your lower torso look like while you're suntanning on a beach?”

Social media has given them a voice, but sometimes that voice sounds like Rebecca Black singing ‘Friday' (the breakneck speed in which they consume media also means that the reference I just made is dated).”