Every so often, an evaluation assessing our generation surfaces the internet. A high browed sixty-something year old regurgitates a familiar argument: the generation born in the ‘80s and ‘90s comprises of lazy technology aficionados.The youth, they decree, is vapid, entitled, and materialistic. They have umbilical cords connected to their iPhones and ambitions set on taking selfies. Surely, these degenerates will devastate the world they inherit. While some of these assertions may hold true, seldom are positive attributes ascribed to this generation. As a result of the atmosphere and resources, the millennial epoch has prospered like none other has before.
The prowess of millennials is present in its youngest members. There’s a teeming zeitgeist of rigor present in American high schools. Colleges admissions have amplified in competition and degrees are the bare minimum of job requisites. Stellar grades alone no longer secure attendance at top institutions. There are seemingly Renaissance man expectations out of every student. In coming-of-age ‘80s film lingo, the nerd cannot succeed with only their books; they must have the athletic versatility of the jock, the musical prowess of the band geek, and the ingenuity of the alternative artist. Gone are the days when hard work was an attribute of the overtly academic; it’s now a necessity for any student to thrive. This pressure was absent for past generations; in its cold beauty, it’s ours and ours alone.
But us millennials have endured. And flourished. Amidst subsequent anxiety, we’ve assimilated to the demands of the academic sphere. The millennial takes on rigorous course loads, a part time job, varsity sports teams, volunteer hours, music courses, and various other extracurriculars. Standardized tests and other exams are peppered throughout their schedule. The college application is a multi-faceted document, accounting for breadth and depth of the individual. These four years are spent as its servant – laziness is a luxury that cannot be afforded. High school millennials have engaged themselves in multi-tasking and diligence far before their entrance to adulthood, far beyond what adolescents of past decades have undergone.
Yet, the overarching trait of all millennials is adherence to technology. Someone sitting still doing nothing equates to incompetence, unless they have a book in their hand, which translates to absorbing information. All the information the world has to offer, every tidbit of useless fact, is compacted into a single database: the internet. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of wikipedia articles. It’s all there. Perhaps it doesn’t have the traditional aesthetic of books long-associated with academics, but the millennials are absorbing information as they would through a book, whether it’s getting lost in a sea of Wikipedia articles or spending hours watching Youtube documentaries. Knowledge is no longer exclusive to book-dwelling intellectuals; the millennials have taken hold to it too.
This information transcends into a discourse every millennial engages in. The social, entertainment, artistic, and political platform co-exist within single mediums. Millennials are more involved with the world and all it has to offer. Social media in both the colloquial and formal medium connecting humans from all from around the world. Alone in their living rooms, hundreds of people can discuss a sports game or TV show via Twitter. Artists and writers can develop communities on Instagram and WordPress. The tools available for this generation to invest in their interest is boundless. “The internet as a whole has influenced me in so many ways.” High School junior Kyna affirms. “It’s given me an outlet for my thoughts and an opportunity to share media with dozens of communities.” With all the possibilities the internet offers, the millennial generation is invested in developing themselves in every facet.
Even with assimilation to academic rigor and usage of technology, millennials are branded as self-centered. This is a misnomer. Through the lens of the internet, the generation growing up with technology has an omniscient view of the world. We see inwards and focus inwards; the way we present ourselves and our ideas turns all of us into artists. But we do this with a higher conscientiousness of the outer audience. It’s easy to see through social media how we are all subjectivities, single entities buried under an overriding hashtag. The world is too large to envision, but the internet offers an idea of our irrelevance to the grand narrative. This epoch focuses on their own projection in relation to the larger picture.
The millennials haven’t quite inherited the nation and its problems yet. The high schoolers find their days waning down as they’re launched into adulthood. We’re ready though; more so than our predecessors. The older millennials climb up the ladder of their respective fields. The monologues punctuated with “when I was your age”s and “kids these days” will keep rolling in. We may love our iPhones, but we especially love what they provide: an expression of ourselves and access to the greater world around us. The older generation reluctantly hands us their precious world, fearing our touches will shatter it. We won’t. We are aware of the past, our downfalls, and our privileges. If not, we’ll just google it anyway.