Full text of author Kelly Williams’ talk: Millennials – why are they the worst at TEDxSalem conference.
Kelly Williams Brown – Writer, Author of ‘Adulting’
I’m sorry, just hold on one second you guys, I got to just Instagram this. Now taking pictures of you with me. Perfect.
Okay. Just talk amongst yourselves, Okay. (Hashtag) #TedxSalem, #LivingTheDream #Yolo
Hi, I’m a millennial and I am a monster.
No one really knows how or why I got this way.
There’s a lot of different series though, as to what could have gone so terribly, terribly wrong with me. It could be that when I was in preschool, I sang a lot of songs, meant to build my self-esteem. And now that’s why I’m an unrepentant narcissist with no sense of human empathy.
That’s one theory.
It could be also the fact that I got some trophies for participation when I was in elementary school, which is why I would kill my own grandmother if she got in the way of my Instagramming.
But no matter what, why, whatever is wrong with us, the main thing is that I get to talk about me. So that’s good.
So let’s talk about who I most importantly, but I guess the millennials in general are.
What is a millennial? Who am I?
There are some possible answers here. Am I:
- A narcissistic jerk,
- A Facebook, Social media, Tumblr, Twitter, self-branding man-child.
- Someone who “rejects the system and refuses to get a job, but never refuses a handout from my parents.”
- Or someone born between 1981 and the year 2000.
No one can say for sure.
But, let’s talk about some of the conversation that’s been happening about millennials. Because we’ve been kind of in the news a lot lately. So, see what the New York Times has to say:
“The now generation has become the ME generation.”
They said about the boomers in 1976. Okay, Bad, bad example.
Let’s see what they’re actually saying about the millennials:
“They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb the corporate ladder. They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial.”
Said Time Magazine about Gen X in 1990.
Gosh, it’s almost enough to make you feel that hand-wringing trend pieces about the awfulness of the young people are less of a valid cultural or social logical critique and more of an easy trend piece that moves magazine covers.
But I digress and let’s see what people are actually saying about the millennials. Oh, and before I move on, because I don’t want us to be accused of plagiarism on top of everything else. Thanks to Elspeth Reeve at the Atlantic who compiled those quotes.
“The worst generation?” asks the New York post.
“Yes”, they say in the second paragraph, “Absolutely, the worst generation”.
A Gen Y manager is perceived is entitled, unpolished. This is actually the first time we’re hearing the ‘E’ word in regards to the millennials. But, don’t worry we’re going to hear it a bunch more. And favorite:
“The ME ME ME Generation”
“Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.”
I am so glad the Time Magazine has single-handedly and selflessly diagnosed every single person in my generation with a serious personality disorder.
And PS – how bad do you feel for this poor woman who thought she was signing up for stock photography and instead found herself the shameful poster child of the worst generation.
And here’s one problem that I have with general critiques of millennials and these kinds of trend pieces is the sheer volume of millennials.
Now, depending on how you define the cohort and granted there are no hard and fast rules on this or any generations boundaries, but we’re talking about somewhere between 52.8 million and 86 million people.
To put that into context, that’s more people than African Americans and Asian Americans combined. That’s more people than self-identify as Hispanic or Latino on the census. And it’s way more than the population of a lesbian gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.
To look at it on a map, we are more than the population of Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Montana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island combined.
So when you’re talking about this mass of people, the more you get into these lazy, simple explanations, the worst you’re going to do, because there is one thing and one thing only that you can say about each and every member of the millennial generation.
One thing that’s true: We are all young or young-ish. Personally, I’m more on the young-ish side of things. But clinging to that for now. That’s the only thing that all millennials have in common.