Narrator looks up from phone. Hits lock button.
So…I recently got back from Thanksgiving with my family, where I approached them with this idea of writing an article on how to be a better millennial. Naturally, their opinions were nothing new: we’re entitled, we’re naive, we don’t know what hard work is, we’re all about our damn phones.
Phone pings. Looks down. Notices it’s from Mom. Looks up.
Millennials are defined as being the generation before generation Z, and thus we are the penultimate one. This means we can’t quite burn the world down, if we’re trying to be nice. That means hard looks and saying “Kids these days” about ourselves. Millennials may be known for loving nostalgia, but we have to look to the future sometimes.
Puts phone in pocket. Mounts literal high horse.
If you don’t mind my high horse, here are some ideas.
It sound so cool, right? Millennial. It sounds like a superhero with time powers. But really it’s a term invented by older people to lump us all together. Whether used for complaining or for advertising, this word feels like it’s going the way of “hipster”—conjuring negative traits before positive ones. Instead of a dartboard, maybe we can make the term a jukebox—lots of different music, good or bad depending on your taste but at least it beats the silence.
If you’re like me, when you see a family out to dinner with a child on an iPad you internally tsk tsk. I’ve heard it often said, “We’re so lucky we got a few years before everything was all internet.” I often feel this admittedly false sense of superiority, but then I think you’d understand from the stage directions in this article that a day without my phone has me feeling like Ted Nugent without a gun. I need it because I hate silence. Silence makes me feel bored and boring and ugh I hate to feel like I’m not fun.
Again, if you’re like me, you oscillate wildly between self-loathing and egotism, and social media feeds on that. Posting is a game that involves both stating “I love me” and asking, “Don’t you love me?” The “likes” and “loves” (yeah, thanks for making my support more complicated, Facebook) are only little reminders that the internet exists, not that we all exist. The love of this attention is hardly exclusive to our generation, as our president elect exemplifies just how troll-like it can turn anyone. Not to mention, scrolling does to my face what shaking keys does to babies.
Netflix couples. You know what I mean by that. Netflix and Chill has expanded to now Netflix and Life. In preparation for this article, I took the Pew “How Millennial Are You” quiz and the first question was about TV. And yet, I rarely see TV shows about TV binge watchers so it’s not like it’s fun or we’re proud of it.
Pulls phone out of pocket. Looks at self in the black reflection. Puts phone back in pocket.
So if we’re not watching TV, what can we do?
The baby boomer’s parents were the so-called “Greatest Generation.” I’m not jealous of that title because to earn it, they fought a WAR ACROSS THE WORLD. And if you weren’t there, you planted victory gardens or rationed…bullets? And in the ‘60s / ‘70s, the baby boomers had the Vietnam War which you either fought in or fought against. 9/11 was clearly the largest moment of young American lives, but our relationship to war is different now. It’s been going on so long that we don’t ever even think about it anymore—it’s like Survivor, but with less suvrivors. We certainly aren’t planting gardens, but maybe we should be.
Do I really need to talk about the importance of recycling?
Googles recycling info.
By now you’ve heard that America got duped by fake news in this last election. That mulleted ‘80s businessman telling Oprah he’d run as a republican because they’re all stupid? Fake. Hillary Clinton’s alien baby? Fake. Evan McMullin’s existence? Fake. Don’t spread the food around the plate to make it look like you ate it, just check your sources. Speaking of sources…
Now the list is starting to speak to me and it’s getting off the rails. My high horse is braying.
I might’ve sort of gotten you with TV, recycling, and dolphins but now maybe I’ve gone too far. But really I’m serious. It’s clear that cities went out for Hillary Clinton, but everywhere else went red as a MAGA hat. We’re pigeonholing our intellectual and artistic xtcapital in cities. Meanwhile, the people we’ve left think we’re elitist. They think we think they’re too hot for them. They don’t realize we just really love having every ethnicity of food at our fingertips.
Takes out phone. Orders Ethiopian food.
And just because they don’t understand what you’ve seen, doesn’t mean to unfriend them. That prevents good ideas from being shared, and dumb ones to be easily proliferated and unquestioned. For instance:
Look no further than Ken “should’ve deleted my Reddit account” Bone or even the man-with-the-big-dumb-mouth-and-tiny-hands whose name I’ve been careful not to explicitly mention because I don’t even want to give him the Google alert; he loves being talked about, and that siren song of notifications led him to a presidency.
Takes phone out of pocket. Really stares at it. Brushes horse’s mane.
I think you can tell I didn’t vote for the one disavowed by Tic Tacs, but regardless of their affiliations, millennials should be engaged in the political process. When articles come out with stuff you don’t like, don’t keep scrolling. Switch to the phone part of the iPhone and call your representative or to schedule some volunteer time. It’ll be easy. Because you read this list and saved the number. Rebrand your smoke break as a democracy-in-action break.
When I googled the title of this article (to see if it’d been done before) the results were all geared towards how older generations could work with us. They need someone to figure out their tech, and until they retire, that’s us. It’s hard to not be petulant about a world they fucked up but still control, but we can’t just assume we know everything. Yet.
“Kids these days…They don’t know anything.” Such is the refrain. But we’re the most educated generation in history so let’s act like it by applying facts, figures, and sometimes even weird horse metaphors. Part of rebranding the word “millennial” is being smart enough to manage multiple perspectives, to have a Bruce Lee level of control and to know that the Bruce Lee video I just linked is fake, to argue with those uncles over Thanksgiving and use your millennial superpowers.
Dismounts high horse. Takes horse’s weed away. Phone pings.
Robert Salazar is an actor, comedian and musician living in Chicago.