Letters from the Editor: WordPress, Twitter and eggs over-easy
This article is written for the benefit of older members of the UAF community, as my peers are already familiar with most of it.
They don’t seem to like me very much at the diner down the hill from campus. I tend to go there for Sunday breakfast, prior to our newspaper’s weekly editorial and freelancer meetings, but unlike the rest of the crowd I’m not particularly chatty or engaged. Instead I sit by myself, reviewing the week’s submissions, writing my editorial or catching up on day’s news and events.
Odds are I’m playing into no small number of millennial stereotypes by sitting in the middle of a busy diner, smartphone at the ready and typing away on my laptop. The waitstaff seems a bit chilled in response — though I smile and engage with them when they do approach my booth, their service is prompt but curt, mirroring their perceived disinterest on my part.
Since time immemorial it has been the favorite pastime of generations in power to malign the generations of their children. While I don’t believe the scrutiny we face is any more virulent than that directed at our predecessors, it’s certainly more visible – thinkpieces and clickbait abound, full of hot takes decrying millennials for the death of everything from bar soap to the stock market to vacations.
Perhaps most frequently, we are frequently described by our parents (and occasionally by our anachronistic peers) as being “screen-obsessed narcissists.” This is an easy accusation to level — much as generation X was the first batch of kids raised with cable television, millennials were the first raised in the information age. Our childhoods were spent in front of computer screens and video game consoles. We were among the first to grow up with consistent access to interactive entertainment and the vast stores of data on the internet. And, yes, we were regularly told that we’re unique, special snowflakes, as was the standard practice in education at the time.
Many of our generation’s idiosyncrasies are explained by our upbringings or a glance at the economic realities we’ve faced in our adulthoods so far, but that doesn’t seem to stop the myriad fuming descriptions of our media consumption habits or our unwillingness to “buy in” to societal norms.
As a result, we face a constant refrain of irate assumptions. Are millennials skipping vacations because we fear replacement? No, we’re philosophically opposed to taking time off. Could we be taking more photos and videos of ourselves because we all carry high-quality cameras with few capacity limitations? No, clearly we’re just narcissists. Maybe we’re starting families and buying homes later because the economic climate has been unfavorable to us since entering the workforce? No, we must be opposed to traditional family values. Maybe our tech fixation is based on the fact we use these ubiquitous squares of glass and plastic to keep touch with distant friends and family, or to stay informed of news and current events? No, we’re obviously mindless zombies.
So to the faculty, staff and anybody else who may not quite grok our behaviors, our habits or our device use, just keep in mind that we’re not being deliberately disrespectful – even though we should probably set aside our smartphones in class.
And to the diner waitstaff, well, I’ll try to pay my tab and get out of your hair as promptly as ever.