Millennials, in this millennial author’s humble opinion, are a modern Atlas: we carry the weight of the entire world’s problems on our shoulders. Journalists have identified us as the murderers of almost every industry, from casual dining chains and motorcycles to diamonds and houses, and so on. We are, somehow, extraordinarily powerful despite being crushed under student debt, crippled by depression and anxiety, and bequeathed a future of climate change, robot overlords, and nuclear war.
This power is not easily attained. If you are not a millennial but are hoping to also become an Industry Killer™, you must be motivated by frugality (out of necessity), compassion, and a desire for purpose. Living in a post-modern age is not easy for anyone, but creating your adult life, career, family at a time when the guidance of the past is mostly irrelevant and just what are the rules again anyway? is a task of a difficulty commentators don’t give us credit for.
Because, to be frank, every “Can You Believe Millennials Killed This Industry?” article is lazy. (The idea that we are an army of Grim Reapers, equipped with smartphones, is lazy in itself.) These articles isolate us from the broader historic and systemic contexts that explain our aversion to the industries that are now crumbling. Fingers are pointed at us without considering what might compel us to act the way we do. And trust me, it’s complicated.
It’s not that we don’t see the value of wedding rings: I have friends who’ve already gotten engaged or married that have (small) rings. But even if we had the necessary funds for a big rock, I think many more millennials would simply rather spend it on experience-based activities—traveling, concerts, and so on. We certainly haven’t mastered humanity’s innate materialism just yet, but generally speaking, we’re less thing-oriented than generations prior.
This is due, of course, to our financial woes. All costs of living are exponentially higher than when our parents paid their bills by working part-time at their town’s ice cream shop each summer. This only exacerbates the problem (and makes the things themselves less desirable). But dipping into historical context shows there’s still more.
The West has been won. The houses of suburban sprawl have been built, and there are scarce amounts of Destiny left to Manifest. Our American tendency is to go, go, go and move, move, move, so we millennials dart around from big city to big city, where we can hope to construct lives of ideas and meaning, instead of picket fences and a big backyard.
But per the commentators, we’re heartless killers, destroying all of the industries they once held dear. And surely, these authors’ attitudes might be because millennials grew up with the Internet and have never hit “Reply All” when answering office-wide emails. But that’s no excuse for failing to do their homework as they analyze our way of life—and they might try taking some of the blame sometime.