author: annie trussler | op-ed editor
“Remember those huge ass portraits that took days to paint? Just expensive selfies. King George is no better than a millennial!”
Listen, almost nobody complains more than I do. It’s as if the spirit of an 87-year-old man is hidden under my skin, and has taken it upon himself to assure everyone knows how perpetually uncomfortable I am. This list of discomforts includes anything: bugs, the wind, crowds, and racism; you know, the little things. What it doesn’t include, however, is the pace at which minimum wage employees make my Chicken McNuggets (your food is coming, Jan), or whether or not a stranger is texting beside me, or when a group of fourteen-year-old girls pause to take a selfie.
I take pride in millennial culture. I thrive in it, I relish it, I admire and appreciate the technological, ideological, medical, and personal metamorphosis the human race has gone through, despite so much bigotry and violence. Anyone born from approximately 1990–2003 fall under this category: the Internet Age, the era of the selfie, and what many baby boomers deem to be the fall of humankind itself.
Slow it down, Aunt Carol, nostalgia is poison. I, as well as many others, I’m sure, have heard complaints of “laziness,” or the overuse of technology, of general disconnection from society – and to that I say relax, go to yoga, drink a nice merlot, it’s going to be okay.
I have an issue with generational hypocrisy. We are punished for making use of the technology invented for us, for the medicine created by older generations, and oh, man, don’t even get me started on selfie shaming (remember those huge ass portraits that took days to paint? Just expensive selfies. King George is no better than a millennial!).
Moreover, this shaming is everywhere. A thirteen-year-old could get into med. school, or some random teenager could post a picture of a lake, and you just know some middle aged “white knight” will swagger into the comment section, and brandish his smug mantra of, “Good to see you got away from your phone for awhile! ;-)” (additionally, emojis don’t need noses…but that’s another article’s issue).
A millennial’s accomplishments, personal achievements, or just all around friendliness will always be overridden for what many choose to not understand. I, for example, met my long-term girlfriend, now fiancée, via the Internet. Yes, I know, how scandalously millennial. There’s just no way I could forge any real meaningful connection with someone online, I say, writing this on the plane home from seeing her, editing photos of us together, and generally being in love. There’s just no way.
The modern day aside, let’s look backward. Let’s analyze this nostalgia millennial critics cling to so fiercely, because clearly there is something spectacular I’m missing. Alright, what have we had to lose? Polio, black people being hosed, gay people not being able to drink in the same room, housewives suffering PTSD from the abuse they faced…you know, it’s tempting, very tempting. The good old days were truly the best of the best (if you were a white, middle-class, heterosexual, cisgender man – Republicanism, anyone?).
I write this because I implore anyone over the age of thirty to remove their hands from their ears, take a deep breath, and enjoy something for a change. Skype can be hard to navigate, but you can call your kids at college. The Internet is intimidating, but imagine discussing philosophy with someone in Australia! I’m also more than certain you all enjoy a rousing game of Brickbreaker from time to time.
Take a picture of yourself. Let teenagers enjoy themselves. With self-esteem, suicide, and eating disorders so prevalent with the modern teen, what harm does it do to let them enjoy how they look, how they feel? Your kid is smiling at their phone for a reason. Maybe they’re talking to their boyfriend, or their friend across the globe; maybe they’ve just read news that women’s rights have been won in an underdeveloped country, maybe they’re admiring the beauty of their crush via Instagram.
Steve Jobs didn’t invent Apple out of thin air for people his age to not give this sort of thing a chance. Change is less frightening than you might believe, especially when you take time to consider the enormous benefits said changes have had on the economy, social relations, culture as a whole, and more. Take a stroll outside your glass house, and maybe, just maybe, take a selfie to commemorate your entrance into the modern world. You’ll make it.