2021.04.01

1990s Abe Simpson
Foreward

This post is about millennials. It's an exploration of the things that make gen-y unique, both the good and the bad. Mathematically speaking, I'm a millennial, so I'm entitled to meme about them - uh, us.

The oomer spectrum meme

Mathematically speaking (but with a higher degree of precision), I'm a "yoomer" or, more formally, an xennial - the intergenerational group characterized by an analog childhood and digital adulthood. Our mentors are gen-x, our subordinates are gen-y, so I'm able to make scientific observations about why each generation sucks. In this case we're just discussing millennials. There won't be one about gen-x because they're all pretty awesome and have to constantly put up with millennial nonsense.

Generations of the 20th and 21st century

So in the spirit of April 1, social science, lists, and humor, I thought I'm enumerate some of the best and worst millennialisms before their cultural dominance is supplanted by the zoomers. Congrats, gen-y, you had a good run, now go raise generation alpha while paying off your historic levels of debt.
Reader beware... err, don't @ me

Millennial are killing everything

I should make two up-front observations about millennials:
  1. They have a victimization complex
  2. They hate generalizations
Regarding #1, I'll point out that I have some complementary things to say and also some of my best friends are proper millennials. Regarding #2, remember that generalizations are simply statistical observations. Every person chooses their own path, and being born in the US between 1980 and 2000 doesn't mean you have to contextualize everything in Harry Potter terms.

Reddit comment about Harry Potter

On the subject of list mechanics, since these items have been ranked in an extremely scientific way, there are both callbacks and calls forward. So if it looks like a topic we haven't discussed or perhaps an autocorrect fail, be patient. E.g. "autocorrect fail" is itself a forward reference to bottom ten item number four. Hilarious, I know.
Top 7 Millennialisms

7. The end of cursive

Everyone should learn cursive

This was probably a decision made by gen-x teachers and administrators, but millennials get the credit for proving that society wouldn't collapse if we stopped connecting our letters. I'm genuinely curious how you guys came up with signatures if you never learned how many humps a cursive 'm' has (it's seven, by the way).

But since y'all managed to sign your student loan documents I guess things have panned out.

6. The _________ challenge

Annoying tide pod challenge

So this one is a double-edged sword. Sure, these 'challenges' get old real quick and they're centered around getting meaningless social media views. But at its core, a challenge is a meme combined with a feat of strength and sometimes a YOLO. These are character-building, risk-taking, and sometimes funny. It's like walking around a party with 151 teaching people to blow fireballs, except that spectators are safe at home rather than crippled from the anxiety of seeing fire.

I won't watch your challenge, but if someone messages me a really funny or amazing one, I might watch that.

5. Verbal irony

Verbal irony

My generation had a knife full of spoons when all you need is a metaphor, or however that stupid song went. Since then, the primary meaning of irony has moved from a difficult-to-grasp logical concept to what is called 'verbal irony', or sarcasm.

I hated this once, after all there are figuratively dozens of synonyms for sarcasm. But verbal irony has grown on me. For one, I found that the Brits seem to use it a lot, so maybe it's been a longstanding thing over millennials left their bubble to make it a thing over here. Second, while 'irony' seems to just be a cheap way to evade the negative connotation of 'sarcasm', the derived term 'unironically' is especially useful:

I unironically like watching crossfitters video themselves running up a hill with paddleboat anchors velcroed to their wrists. I don't need reinforcement for my life choices, but I don't mind it either.

'Unironically' is a great way to clarify your lack of sarcasm while expressing condemnation.

4. YOLO

Storming Area 51 Naruto runner

Yes, "You Only Live Once" has been accurately described as "carpe diem for idiots". But you know what? I think it has a place and I'll tell you why.

You have to italicize carpe diem because it's Latin. Clearly, that last sentence reads just fine in normal font, but a lot of Latin doesn't.

A priori.

I bet you read that and first thought I was talking about a thing. I wasn't, I was saying beforehand, but fancier.

And don't even get me started on cum hoc ergo propter hoc. Yes, you in fact need to italicize Latin for the sanity of the reader. And sometimes to avoid a chat with internet HR. Now some things are known primarily by their Latin, like ad hoc and tu quoque. A priori is a bit more borderline since it has easy substitutes. But using Latin to make a point as basic and understandable as YOLO? As the millennials say, cringe.

Are you not convinced by a typographical argument?

YOLO is also catchier, an acronym, and easy to yell as you're doing the wasabe enema challenge or whatever.

So, good for you, millennials, I unironically applaud YOLO.

3. Sending it

Full send Reddit motorcycle comment

"Send it" is YOLO after YOLO became old, but before YOLO became nostalgic. Where YOLO has been employed to justify wearing mismatched socks or literal nudity, sends are considerably more physical, dangerous, and entertaining. Also while YOLO is a word of encouragement, instructing someone to send it is more of a dare and - as I understand it - provides legal indemnification from any consequences.

Thank you for this expression, millennials, never stop sending it.

2. Memes and the new lexicon (the good)

Teen internet slang memes

Millennials did not invent the meme and they rode the coattails of its emergence, but they put the most work into The Meta and deserve credit.

My (sub)generation couldn't do much better than 'duh', 'everything sucks', and 'what...ever' in our youth. As we got older we giggled at 'donkey punch' and 'minivan'. In the workplace, we let the actual boomers convince us to start verbing nouns. None of these were particularly clever and none aged well. While the millennial lexicon is somewhat hit and miss (see other list), next to us they look positively Shakespearian.

While beaten to death at the time of this writing, the simple mention of the name 'Karen' tells you exactly what you're dealing with - or, what you manager will have to deal with. I've already praised the delightful mantras 'ironically', 'YOLO', 'send it'.

Red is sus? Red is always sus. F in the chat, boys. Dicks out for Harambe. Gen-y'ers can juggle a thick catalogue of cultural references while not abandoning film and literature. For example, millennials upcycled a classic phrase to describe their comedic financial struggles with 'yeet the rich'.

What's more, my generation's pager code and AIM shorthand didn't go the way of Morse code, Latin, and cursive. Nay, gen-y took our limited shorthand dictionary and expanded it to include now-common expressions such as smh (shake my head), ikr (I know, right), rn (right now), and tbqhf (to be quite honest, fam).

1. They are the least tolerant of intolerance

Who is canceled

I needed to round the list out at seven so I asked Jes for something unironically good about millennials. Her immediate response became my #1, so that probably says something about how bias these lists are.

Here's another roundabout explanation that's kind of like my Latin/italicization one but maybe better.

If you've read the boomer classic Ender's Game, you know that while Ender is studying up on battle simulations, his siblings fight an ideological battle on the homefront. They're so effective at political discourse they become major political figures simply by owning others with facts and logic (in the real sense not the stupid Ben Shapiro sense). In our reality, the internet eventually provided the infrastructure for a similar scenario, but thanks to laws such as Poe's, Godwin's, and Cohen's, it really hasn't worked out quite as dystopically-well as it did in the book. (This idea certainly isn't unique to that novel, but Orson Scott Card was the perfect choice for this.)

Enter "going viral" and the individually-pathetic-but-collectively-impressive millennial consumer class. Thanks to the technology and the economics, we've almost reached a world of cyber-populism where anyone can become an influencer of opinions based on their message rather than their identity. And when something trends, the world changes. Temporarily, at least, things don't trend for very long and millennials have attention spans of goldfish.

So while the message isn't always good and there's a lot of noise, crowdsourced morality has shined through and comprehensively condemned anything-phobia.

Of course, it's not all K-Pop fans drowning out white nationalist hashtags, this phenomenon also briefly destroyed capitalism. Yikes.
Bottom 7 Millennialisms

7. LOL is not punctuation

Using lol as punctuation

The easy fix is to tell your phone to autocorrect 'lol' to '.'

6. Influencers

Influencer Logan Paul meme

The internet provides a level playing field where anyone can be a celebrity if they have a funny cat or can make rad Fortnite skins. But where there's celebrities, there's wannabe celebrities.

And they are unbearable. I think. I really have done a good job of insulating myself from that nonsense.

Millennials, please tell me you realize how stupid the idea of a tiktok hype house is. Gen-z, you get a pass since you're too young to realize.

5. Memes and the new lexicon (the bad)

Facebook NEXT

The new parlance isn't all good. We've already talked about how gen-y needs to contextualize everything as a Harry Potter reference. It's like what we do with The Simpsons except, you know, The Simpsons was superb social commentary and not a formulaic magic story written for children.


Chris
Cattle, you gotta use trigger warnings, kshot might kobe that hardware into the wall.
Oof
Anonymous
YeEeEeeT
AnonymousTwo
Pain
Anonymous

Oof? Yikes? Ayooop? These words don't mean anything. Yeet gets a pass.

Virgin millennial Chad boomer meme

As you can see from my charts above, baby boomers, or 'boomers', are postwar births from 1946-1964. At least, that was the definition. Then millennials decided that their self-inflicted problems were caused by boomer pensioners and landlords, collectively choosing to other anyone who doesn't compulsively look at their cell phone every ten seconds.

This fundamental unwillingness to understand anything not in their social media feed is rather benign until you have to deal with the "okay boomer" mentality.

4. Semi-literacy

Facebook autocorrect

There was a time that misspelling 'potato' could literally end your political career. Back when nuns would smack you with a yardstick if you made a mistake writing in cursive on parchment. Society has overcorrected hard - or perhaps it has autocorrected hard. Boomer humor lol

As someone who frequently punctuates texts with the letter 'm', I'm not going to drag anyone over the coals for legit typos. But c'mon, it's at least worth the effort to learn the meaning of there/they're/their. Not an adequately self-centered reason? It will save you having to call people "grammar Nazi's" all the time. A few more:
None of this is autocorrect's fault.

And, of course, we can't forget it was millennials that decided literally meant figuratively.

Using 'literally' to mean 'nonliterally' is okay because Charles Dickens used it that way once so it's okay.

Okay doomer.

3. Generation Me Pt. II

Generation me me me Time cover

The uncharitable description of millennials is that they're egocentric and have an underdeveloped sense of accountability (particularly with misspellings). A quick survey of social media will tell you that there is truth to this, but such a statement should be qualified just a bit.

As a xennial, I'm familiar with the "you can be anything you want" mantra pushed on kids born after 1980. We all know the story - boomers fought a cultural revolution then raised special snowflakes who could be president-astronaut-doctors, but ended up with a permanent basement tenant. And so you have a cocktail of self-centeredness combined with feelings of crippling failure all fed through the amplifier of a delicate social media persona.

Yoomers versus Doomers Tweet

And here's where yoomers and doomers divide. We had an analog childhood where friends were friends, rumors were word-of-mouth, and confrontation was in-person. The bulk of gen-y has had to deal with the growing presence of social media, personal branding, and emotional manipulation. And here they actually are victims of xoomers and yoomers like Zuck and Tom from Myspace lol

2. Gatekeeping, toxicity, triggers, safe spaces, and other problematic things

Harry Potter keeper of the whatever I do not care

If you recall, my highest praise for millennials was that they are intolerant of injustice. Well, for any great thing there also exists lazy, copycat pretenders willing to abuse a good idea for positive reinforcement.

Millennials are the center of their own universe - their parents told them so and their social media tells them so. So when something is uncomfortable or offensive for them it's everyone's problem. The best way to convey this, of course, is to refer to the uncomfortable thing as 'problematic'; millennial for, "I can't relate this concern in an objective manner because I am too lazy and unwilling to consider the viewpoints of others".

Since problematic things are highly individualized, it's important to discuss these things in self-supportive teams. This helps build confidence and consensus on the platform. It's not so effective when you encounter another team, or some thot who says, "Sorry Karen, NEXT!" At that point, the entire situation becomes 'toxic' which is millennial for "I'm not going to confront this problem and if you ask me to it will trigger my anxiety".

This is a revolutionary method of solving problems and finding compromise, and that's why any large company has specific manager trainings on how to deal with gen-y.

Gatekeeping is another fun one. If you're not familiar, its use is illustrated in the following two interactions:

Boy: Girls aren't allowed in the treehouse.
Girl: That's gatekeeping!
Boy: I mean, there boomer-literally is a gate here, and I'm the keeper, but I understand your point about baseless discrimination. As long as you have your cooties vaccine I will permit entry.

Doctor: Your child needs a polio vaccine so he doesn't get polio.
Karen: Vax? Yikes! I don't see any medical need for this, he doesn't even ride horses.
Doctor: I'm sorry, what are your medical qualifications?
Karen: Don't gatekeep! My beliefs on medical therapy are just as valid as yours!

Like 'problematic' and SAD, calling something gatekeeping is employed as an argumentative cheat code that everyone's opinion is equally valid.

1. Appropriation and the birth of the citizen psychiatrist

Millennial anxiety panic attack Reddit post

Millennials literally all have SAD (social anxiety disorder). Social anxiety probably existed in my era, but nobody had it. Or if they did, they internalized it because they didn't want to get made fun of. How mean were we back in the day?

But the pendulum has swung pretty far in the opposite direction. The legitimate issues caused by overmedication and techonology have been drowned out by self-diagnosed SAD. At this point when my brain hears "my anxiety", it involuntarily decides that the person just wants to avoid doing something mildly unpleasant. That sounds harsh, but confirmation bias is involuntarily and so telling me I'm wrong would be extremely problematic.