This is going to be a longer one, so buckle up.
You’ve probably seen the video that went viral about ‘the Millennial question’ in which Simon Sinek discusses why the Millennial generation are thought of in the workplace as ‘entitled and narcissistic, self interested, unfocused and lazy’.
He goes through 4 categories of where this might be coming from: Parenting, Technology, Impatience and Environment. In his conclusion he prescribes less social media and phone use in general (go figure) as well as renewed focus from his generation to help us poor Millennials find our way through life and realise that, to paraphrase his argument, good things come to those who wait.
Here’s the clip:
This video royally pissed me off.
Okay, it’s probably an instinctive reaction to get defensive when criticism is aimed at you, so I took some time to reflect on what he was saying.
It’s not that I wildly disagree with the broad things he’s commenting on here. Social media is addictive, and there are endless discussions on the negative impact it can have on our mental health and face-to-face relationships.
But I do disagree with the inference that these problems are entirely affecting millennials. So I thought I’d break the video down and respond to it:
(TL;DR – Come the fuck on, Simon)
It feels like a lot of this is a reaction that every generation experiences to the one below them.
Sinek is from Generation X. Here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia page about that generation:
As adolescents and young adults, they were dubbed the “MTV Generation” (a reference to the music video channel of the same name). In the 1990s they were sometimes characterized as slackers, cynical and disaffected. – Generation X on Wikipedia
Hmm. Not so different to what’s currently being levelled at Millennials, non?
As one of his opening gambits, Sinek claims that Millennials have been parented to believe we can have anything we want and be anything we want.
They were told that they were special – all the time, they were told they can have anything they want in life, just because they want it.
That doesn’t reflect how my parents raised me, nor what I’ve heard about most of my friends and peers.
I tried to do some research into parenting techniques in the late 80s and 90s, but without much success. It appears that parenting books were certainly starting to becoming a booming commercial entity, which would lead me to believe that there was more likely to be a plethora of varied parenting techniques taking place in this generation than in previous ones. So where’s the evidence to back up the assertion that Millennials have been told these things by their parents?
He goes on to say that, as a result of this ‘failed’ parenting, Millennials are disappointed upon entering the workplace:
You take this group of people and they graduate and they get a job and they’re thrust into the real world and in an instant they find out they are not special, their moms can’t get them a promotion, that you get nothing for coming in last and by the way you can’t just have it because you want it.
As Sinek spoke, I was reminded of a few moments from 1999 movie Fight Club, which seemed to be saying a very similar thing about the beliefs of Generation X:
Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need…Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off…
You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake.
So is this really a Millennial specific problem?
The clip implies that it’s only (or mostly) Millennials affected negatively by social media:
…because we are allowing unfettered access to these devices and media, basically it is becoming hard wired and what we are seeing is that they grow older, too many kids don’t know how to form deep, meaningful relationships. Their words, not mine…
They will admit that many of their relationships are superficial, they will admit that they don’t count on their friends, they don’t rely on their friends. They have fun with their friends, but they also know that their friends will cancel on them when something better comes along. Deep meaningful relationships are not there because they never practiced the skillset
Are they ‘their words’ Simon? I couldn’t find any studies reporting this- only a few which specifically looked into millennials’ romantic relationships, not their friendships.
He goes on to say:
We know, the science is clear, we know that people who spend more time on Facebook suffer higher rates of depression than people who spend less time on Facebook.
Well, sort of.
I’m not here to defend Facebook. There have been a variety of inconclusive, and in some cases contradictory, studies on this, but none have found a causal link- i.e whilst people who use Facebook more do tend to report higher rates of depression (that’s people in general, not just Millennials by the way), the studies haven’t found that one causes the other. Take a look here for some of the findings.
Apparently none of us have any game when it comes to dating
Instant gratification. You want to go on a date? You don’t even have to learn how to be like ‘heyyyyy’. You don’t need to learn how to practice that skill. You don’t have to be the uncomfortable person who says yes when you mean no and no when you mean yes. Swipe right – bang – done! I’m a stud!
Sorry but DID YOU PULL THIS OUT OF YOUR ARSE, SIMON? Maybe I’m biased because I’ve done my fair share of app dating, but the assertion that meeting someone online requires no skill or degree of discomfort is total crap.
It can be excruciatingly uncomfortable to go on a date with someone you’ve only seen in 2D and communicated with electronically.
Sure, the introduction to this person might have been easier, but you do actually have to move into the sphere of meeting them ‘in real life’, at which point it becomes just as nerve-racking and potentially awkward as a date arranged by any other means.
It’s patronising as fuck
Millennials are wonderful, idealistic, hardworking smart kids…this amazing group of young, fantastic kids
There’s only so many times you can emphatically call us ‘amazing’ before I call ‘bullshit’. He also keeps repeating ‘through no fault of their own’ which after a while feels like it has about as much truth to it as ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman’.
Yes, Millennials aren’t perfect, and yes, we all (no matter what the generation) need to respond to the changing world to use tech for good whilst being cautious of how it might affect us.
But doesn’t every generation have its ‘thing’- the criticism levelled against it? Baby boomers ushered in an age of excessive spending, Gen X were all apathetic, Millennials won’t stop looking at their phones, or so the story goes.
Can’t we all just…agree to be different?