Why Old People Think Millennials Are Killing The World
I can’t take another article about millennials. Which is ironic, since the title of this article will likely have the word “millennials” in it. Since it’s sort of about … you know, millennials. I say “sort of” because I don’t think the tidal wave of “MILLENNIALS ARE KILLING ____” pieces are really about them. Not at their core.
When you really break them down, these articles are about my generation. And my parents’ generation. And every generation that has ever existed since the dawn of humans. Yes, they’re phrased as “Millennials are killing X industry, and that’s bad,” but what they’re really saying is, “The times, they are a-changin’, and that scares the shit out of me.” I don’t agree with those articles, because I think they’re impressively idiotic. But I think the key to battling moronicism is understanding what makes a moron moronic. I haven’t decided whether my own insight is fortunate or unfortunate, but …
This Generation Is Changing The World In A Way That I’m Not Prepared For, And Therefore It Must Be Stopped
Let’s say you live in some tribal culture a few thousand years before the first guy with a Christ complex comes along. Your basic priorities in life are to eat, fuck, sleep, repeat. But because Walmart hasn’t invented guns and smoker grills yet, most of your time is wrapped up in that whole “prevent death by shoving food in your suck-hole” hobby. During your midlife crisis at age 12, you realize, “Holy crap, I’m actually pretty good at this cooking thing. Life would be so much simpler if people just brought me dead things, and I made the meals for everyone.” It makes sense, right? That gives everyone else a couple more hours per day to sleep and/or fuck. In exchange, maybe they throw you an extra rat or something for your trouble. Boom, the first McDonald’s is born.
Within weeks, very few people in your tribe are making their own meals. Why would they? You have that shit covered. This upsets the 25-year-old elders, who spread warnings of impending disaster. “Ogg Brrrpth has destroyed the vital skill of cooking! What if he dies tomorrow? Who will then make our food?” This is a legitimate problem, but not an unsolvable one. You suggest training a couple of apprentices who can step in and take over when you inevitably get eaten by dragons. But the elders are still terrified. “It’s impossible! You have doomed us all,” they shout through mouthfuls of food that you prepared.
Flash-forward several thousand years, substitute “food” with “economy,” and you get a pretty good idea of how this cycle continues today. For instance, this article from Business Insider talks about how millennials are killing casual restaurants. It’s not preaching doom, but the argument it produces among readers is “What does this do to our economy?” I mean, TGI Fridays alone pulled in $1.57 billion in 2015. In 2013, they employed over 70,000 people. That’s a pretty big chunk of change. Take that away, and we’re losing a massive amount of income, spending, and taxes. But “Millennials are killing casual restaurants” does not mean “Millennials have stopped eating food.” They’re just doing it elsewhere. And spending a metric fuckload of money in the process.
My generation doesn’t see the growth because we’re distracted by watching the current crop of humans destroying the conveniences we built. We don’t see that it’s often in favor of another, way more convenient and profitable system. My parents thought computers were making kids dumber because for some reason words on physical paper … magically made people smart? My grandparents bemoaned fast food because it was destroying home cooking and family meals. Their parents were worried that cars made people lazy. And back in those tribal days, I guarantee there were a bunch of traditionalists complaining that “Kids these days have it way too easy. You can’t truly appreciate a meal unless you’ve felt the warm blood of a fresh kill on your hands.”
My generation created a ton of conveniences with the technology that was available, and we did it by deconstructing and remodeling the ones my parents created. We then got used to those conveniences and couldn’t imagine life without them. And now that we see them being deconstructed by our own kids, we have to adapt to the new stuff. And that’s as scary as a John Holmes anal scene.
And that means …
The Problems Millennials Are Dealing With For The First Time Are Problems We’re Dealing With For The First Time
This is going to sound like a really stupid statement, because it kind of is: Modern problems are modern. But it’s important in understanding why every headline about the current generation sounds like old people screaming “We’re all gonna fuckin’ die!” I’m going to give you a minor example of how this works.
In the late 1980s, my dad somehow found a way to splurge and buy us a Nintendo. I’m assuming he harvested and sold the kidneys of a drifter, because we could barely afford clothes at the time. We lost our shit when we opened that box on Christmas morning, and we couldn’t wait to hook it up and start smashing bricks and stomping turtles … and also play Super Mario Bros. We rushed back to the crappy black-and-white TV in our bedroom, and … spent the next hour trying to figure out why it wasn’t working.
See, the original Nintendo had an RF switch, which looked like this:
It’s pretty simple by today’s standards, but remember, home entertainment was just becoming a thing back then. Very few people were versed in hooking up electronics. You had to figure out how to run the cable through the switch, then run the switch through the VCR, which then went into the back of the TV. The TV had to be on a specific channel in order to display what was on the VCR. And the VCR itself had to be on a specific channel in order to display what was on the Nintendo. Get one step wrong, and you’re playing a game of Jack Vs. Shit with your friend Chad Nobody.
This is more important than you might realize. See, if my bicycle broke, Dad could fix it (and teach me how), because he grew up with a bike too. He knew how they work from experience. The design has been the same since 1885, so my bicycle problem had at one point been his bicycle problem.
But this Nintendo thing was brand-new to both of us. He knew as much about fixing that problem as I did, so after an hour, his frustration boiled over into “I have no idea: Learn how to fix it yourself. Why can’t you just go outside and poke roadkill with a stick like we used to do?” In his mind, my generation created this new thing which killed off his familiar means of entertainment. Then when a problem flopped its big ol’ dick across our chins, his reaction was to slap it away and blame me for letting it. “You wanted this, so you deal with the cock-chin.”
Now imagine the same scenario, but you’re the parent, and your teenager’s phone bricks. What the hell do you do? Both you and your kid have come to depend on cellphones, and now you’re both in the same boat — you have a $900 paperweight, and neither of you knows what to do about it. When you’re in that position, it’s extremely easy to resent the modern convenience. “If we still had a land line, this wouldn’t be an issue. But now I have to go back to the cellphone store and fuck around with that for three hours. If the warranty is expired, I’ll have to buy a new one. This is BULLSHIT!”
But at its core, you’re just outright embarrassed. You feel insignificant, and it’s all that goddamn phone’s fault. And when that kid learns to fix it on their own? That means they’re now smarter than you. They don’t need your help anymore. You either learn what they just learned, or you become obsolete.
Understand that even though we often overlook that aspect, we’re not totally unaware of it. The frustration overshadows logic when we’re in the moment, but I think a lot of us do recognize that we’re perpetuating an eons-old cycle. So if we’re self-aware, why do we keep buying into those dumbass blind panic articles? Well …
There’s A Kernel Of Truth In Most Of Those Articles
My middle son is very much like me, in that he prefers most of his communication to happen with a thick wall of internet between himself and his target. I’m not great at meatspace conversations, and I goddamn loathe talking on a phone (which is ironic, since several hours of my day are spent on editorial calls … I’m a very important person). With text, I can take the time to craft what I want to say. If I type something stupid, I can just delete it and start over. Start an actual verbal sentence with “You know the thing that nobody understands about reverse racism,” and that shit is now in the ear holes of your peers, no takebacks.
There is, however, a huge difference between me choosing that form of communication and my teenage son doing it: He’s never been forced to learn the harder skill in the first place.
What I’m about to say is going to make me sound like an old man screaming “GIT OFF-A MAH LAWN,” but bear with me. There’s a reason I’m bringing it up. When I was a kid, we had video games, but even multiplayer required your friends to be in the same room with you. Having food delivered still required you, at a bare minimum, to speak to another human on the phone. A ton of our entertainment required face-to-face interaction … even with people you hated. There’s a Chad in every group, and learning to deal with that douchebag is extremely important.
Have you ever had to deal with a really rude customer service worker? What tone and expression do you use when you get pulled over by a cop? Ever had to make a believable ass-saving excuse on the fly? How can you tell when someone is masking that they’re offended? Can you tell by reading their body language and tone of voice? All of that shit comes from practice, and you only get it by spending a nutload of time around people in the physical world. I didn’t do that by choice. I was forced to do it. The big difference I was referring to is that my son is not. And I’m not going to force him to do it, but I realize there are consequences for that.
I had to teach him that using a certain tone when making a joke — especially dark ones — could be misconstrued. That people could take him seriously if he didn’t know the very subtle cues that let them in on it. That sarcasm in text is a totally different structure than sarcasm coming out of your word hole.
So what does all of that have to do with these kinds of articles? Well, as much as I hate to admit it, a lot of them actually do have a sliver of insight. Just a slight hint of truth. Yes, millennials are a contributing factor to Applebee’s declining sales. Yes, millennials do have more trouble talking on the phone than older generations. And yes, they do in fact start “real world” life later than their parents.
When you mix those kernels of truth with a bunch of dumb outrage bait, like this horseshit article, it gets easier and easier to buy into the fucknuttery. It’s a powerful form of dishonesty that starts as an astute observation and ends as your grandmother saying, “See, I knew those video games were the devil!”
Don’t let it get to you. My grandparents’ generation said the same thing about my parents. My parents’ generation said the same thing about mine (we were called “slackers” — I now own my own house). And now my generation is keeping that shit-ball rolling right onto yours. They want to blame you for Toys R Us going bankrupt? Fine. I’ll reap the rewards of your generation allowing me to buy toys without ever leaving my chair.
That is, until millennials kill the concept of chairs.
John Cheese is a senior editor and the head of columns for Cracked. You can find him on Twitter.
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