Dear Readers: What bugs you about your generation? I asked the panel this simple question and their responses are, I hope, unsettling. As the first children to come of age in the Digital Age, Millennials have unique challenges, often unrecognized or misinterpreted by parents and elders. They are the most stratified generation ever (meaning, there was/is less mixing with older generations). I hope today’s column stimulates increased cross-generational interaction and dedicated protection of childhood from pornography and other commercial media. Here’s what’s bugging them, in their own words. More next week. — Lauren
Chuck, 19, Sylvania, Ohio: My generation inherited war, widespread health issues, economic crisis and many other problems, yet so many of us stay positive and useful! That said, we struggle with self-image and distorted societal roles, no thanks to the media’s insidious portrayal of what “normal” is. For example, a movie poster I used to pass each day depicted four people who become a pretend family: “The Drug Dealer,” “The Stripper,” “The Runaway,” and most offensive, “The Virgin.” All were glamorized, except “The Virgin,” who was depicted by a pale, acne-covered boy wiping his nose. This stereotype is a blatant tear on those who aren’t sexually active at an early age. It also implies that it’s cool to have sex as soon as you can coerce someone into joining you. I love my generation and I believe we can achieve incredible things, but it scares me to see the expectations we are adopting.
Savannah, 20, Portland, Ore.: My generation needs to be “cool” and do what’s hip and trending all the time — regardless of whether it’s immoral or unhealthy. The pressure to have this, “I’m young, screw-the-rules, screw-my-body” attitude is exhausting! Everything is trendy, even good health. My peers shop organic for image! You see it in language, too. Smart people sound dumb because they feel they must speak the trending slang. Social media is one of my generation’s biggest problems. We are more on display than real. You “advertise” yourself on your media page the way you want the world to see you, but then you can never measure up.
Brandon, 21, Mapleton, Maine: My biggest gripe is the rising fad of bisexuality and the justification of cheating. Where I live, many girls identify as bisexual, which is fine, except that they feel it’s completely acceptable to date a male and female at the same time. Most of their parents are completely oblivious and “support their gay child.” I’m not against homosexuality. I’ve helped gay and bisexual friends come out of the closet. My gripe is about declining morals and the declining value of monogamy. Between outrageous justifications for cheating and this “bisexual” craze, morality has just flopped! A friend actually called me a “faggot for being in a relationship at my age,” when I should be “tapping that and running.” Ever generation has a party phase, but we wear ours like an aura. Moral decline is worsening in Gen Z kids who have no problem sending nude “selfies,” having sex with multiple partners and stealing their parent’s drugs all before they’re old enough to get their permit. I’m not religious or “morally superior,” but there is right and wrong, versus what’s “cool.”
Sarah, 16, Monclova, Ohio: What bugs me is the romanticizing of depression and self harm. On social media sites like Tumblr, you see an abundance of pictures of scarred or cut-up arms, with comments like, “I find this oddly beautiful.” But it’s not beautiful! It’s sad and makes self-harm acceptable, even desirable. It has almost become trendy. We are starting to act like depression is something positive.
Straight Talk Advice.org tackles youth’s toughest issues with youth’s wisest advice. Go deeper in today’s conversation or ask a question at www.StraightTalkAdvice.org or PO Box 1974 Sebastopol, CA 95473.