I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
My theory of “the baboon effect” had been confirmed. It seemed toperfectly describe the vantage point from which Millennials, GenYs, or Echo Boomers (or whatever you want to call me and the 77million children of the Baby Boomers—we certainly don’tdescribe ourselves with these terms) have been analyzed,synthesized, and parsed. Pollsters, corporations, and academicscontinually come out with studies that produce headlines like:
Millennial women value independence . . . 90 percent of Gen Ysuse social networks . . . Young people are more narcissistic thanever.
There are some useful and interesting truths in thesepronouncements. In fact, I’ve written many stories based on thesefindings. But there’s a lot these general statements don’t explainabout my generation—and, over time, I have begun to think aboutthose gaps and blind spots in the collective understanding. Therewere plenty of arguments and theories about this generation, butwhere were stories of my friends, of their brothers and sisters, andthe actual people behind all of these new and emerging trends thatsaid something about the real lives of 20-somethings?
The theories and hypotheses seeking to explain my generation inthe abstract are as numerous as Monday morning quarterbacks andfood bloggers. A lot of these ideas not only verge on stereotypesand prejudices; a good number of them are intensely negative andscornful as well. You don’t have to go through many pages of aGoogle search to see that the media have gone gangbusters overyoung people’s leisurely amble through “growing up,” or that theythink we are “lazy,” “stunted,” “entitled,” and “selfish.” As aregular contributor to
The New York Times
Business Section since2008, I was often surprised by the barrage of negative commentsmy stories on this
generation would receive. For example, in June2011 I wrote about young people who are holding down multiple jobs, in many cases because they couldn’t find one full- time gig.Comments soon flooded in, many of which pitilessly blamed the