Study Shows That Millenials Are Full Of Self Loathing - But Why Are We So Hard On Ourselves?
The Debrief: Wasteful, self-absorbed and amoral... New statistics show that young people have begun to believe what older people are saying about them
Millennials are aged between 18 and 34 and were born between 1981 and 1997. We paid to go to university, use Spotify instead of buying CDs, travel in Ubers instead of black cabs, we’re the most sexually fluid generation yet and the most relaxed about immigration.
However, according to a new report by the US-based Pew Research Center, we’re also the most full of self-loathing.
59% of the millennials interviewed by Pew agreed that the term ‘self absorbed’ described their own generation, compared with just 20% of Baby Boomers. Only 29% said they would describe themselves as compassionate, contrasted with 47% of Baby Boomers. Only 17% considered themselves to be moral, while 46% of Baby Boomers thought they were. And, while 66% of Baby Boomers thought of themselves as responsible, only 24% of millennials felt that they were.
Nearly half of all millennials polled also described themselves as wasteful, while 43% said they were greedy and 31% of them described their own generation as cynical.
Now – older generations always think younger generations have gone to the dogs. Things are never as good as they were ‘in my day’ etc. Millennials have been labelled as a bunch of selfish, lazy, wreckless, social media-dwelling narcissists by our elders. We’ve have been labelled ‘Generation Rent’, the ‘Jilted Generation’ and even lamented as the ‘Lost Generation’ – usually by commentators who are older.
So, does this new research suggest that we are actually cynical, wasteful, immoral and self-absorbed, or is it possible that we’ve somehow internalised what other people are saying about us and begun to believe the hype about how terrible we are?
As my grandfather (who doesn’t understand the difference between freelance and unemployed) said to me recently, ‘It’s time to grow up now. At your age your mother had a job, was married with two children and a mortgage.’ I know I’m not selfish and irresponsible for not having these things, far from it, but of course you that kind of criticism stings.
Being a millennial is tough. Many of us are struggling to make our way in the world. We graduated from university with debt, only to find that that investing in that expensive education didn’t necessarily buy us a job. And, all those scary headlines every other week about how we’ll never own a home/get a job/pay off our student loans certainly don’t help.
We might be the most connected generation in history via social media, but we’re actually quite lonely; as a 2014 YouGov survey showed people aged 18-24 are actually twice as likely to be anxious about being alone than those aged over 55.
Is it possible that what this report really shows is that western millennials have actually begun to believe that we’re a bunch of irresponsible failures, eternal teenagers who might need to move home if our (Baby Boomer) landlord decides to put the rent up?
Baby Boomers, born between the mid 1940-1960s, bought their first home when prices were low and then watched the value of their property go up, up and up. Rising wages and low house prices helped the generations above us prosper. Today we face higher unemployment, expensive education and, potentially, a lifetime in unstable, rented accommodation.
Previously, the narrative that life was supposed to follow was clear: get an education. Get a job. Find a partner. Buy a house. Have kids. However, the social and economic conditions needed in order for this story to get to its happy ending no longer exist. Things have changed. Because of this we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for not conforming to those expectations, nor should we listen to people who condemn us for not doing so.
The truth is millennials are actually doing OK. A study conducted last year showed that smoking, drinking and drug use among young people has more than halved over the last 10 years. The under-30s now spend less on alcohol than pensioners. Perhaps the rising price of booze is a factor, perhaps we’re spending more money on rent, or maybe we’re actually more responsible than we think we are. Incidentally, according to government figures, sexually transmitted diseases are actually rising fastest among the over-45s.
We have to be resourceful, self-reliant and self-confident, that doesn’t necessarily make us self-absorbed. Let’s not be so hard on ourselves.
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