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BOSTON PUBLIC RADIO
Thu October 18, 2012
'Generation Whine': The Millennial Echo Chamber
Twentysomethings have been hit hard by the recession. Millennials have the highest unemployment of any generation, and the wealth gap between older and younger Americans is now at its widest ever.
The New Republic writer Laura Bennett (a twentysomething herself) noticed people her age were doing something different to cope with this uncertainty. Young people are taking to Tumblr and Twitter to evangelize their peers, and what they're saying isn't always well received. Bennett was inspired to write her article because she noticed that visions of twentysomethings were everywhere in the media — from Thought Catalog to HBO's Girls — but despite the quantity of depictions, there wasn't any diversity among them.
“The representation of the twentysomething is weirdly single-minded," Bennett observes. "Everywhere you look you see this angst-y, aspiring creative, newly ejected from the liberal arts bubble, in the throes of existential anxiety, and I wondered why this representation was all we were seeing.”
Of course, not all twentysomethings fit this mold — and those who don't are often annoyed by the media's depictions of their peers. Phillip, a college junior who plans to work as a laborer after graduation, doesn't understand his classmates' obsession with finding their true calling. "I never had the intention of finding a dream job, so to speak," he explains. "I just wanted to find a way to learn more about things that were in my zone of interest. … I don’t really have any sense of self-pity or feelings as though I deserve a job that falls within my category of interest because I just don’t feel like the market can offer us much right now."
Despite the abundance of twentysomethings like Phillip who break the mold, all many people see is the stereotype. Sarah, a woman in her 40s who has worked her whole life, cannot understand why young people expect to get things easily. "My mom always told me life is neither fair nor easy … I never expected to get a job unless I did a good job," Sarah explains. "I never thought that anybody was going to hand anything to me and they still don’t. Why is it that this generation…thinks that they are to be handed anything? This is a world where you have to work for what you have to do!”
Bennett says that in her work she discovered that twentysomethings who fit Sarah's description weren't the rule — they were just the most widely heard. "Why is this generation thought to be so whiny? Because the most vocal members of the generation are the ones getting all the airtime," Bennett concludes. It seems in order to serve as the voice for your generation, you just have to be the loudest.
BOSTON PUBLIC RADIO