Each generation of people has its own way of doing things. Its own way of being. This has been true nearly as long as humans have been around, or at least as long as we have been keeping records.

The cries of ‘kids today’ and concerns about the ‘oddness of youth’ date back centuries, some of the earliest examples being in the 16th century, with Catholic parents horrified that their kids might get involved with that whole Protestantism fad.

Parents will never understand their kids and kids will never understand their parents. It is impossible. No, that is not cynicism, it is science! The main reason that there is an understanding gap between younger people and older ones is psychological.

millennials

It’s all about the optimism

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Younger people tend be more open and enthusiastic at least partly due to the brain chemistry changes associated with growing up. A process with can have an effect well into the 20s, full mental maturity tending to happen around the age of 25 in most cases.

Sorry for all the qualifiers but there is a need to be clear. While their can be open, cool 40-somethings and curmudgeon, conservative17-year-olds but they tend be just a wee bit rare. In the olden days, at least up until the late 1980s, children were taught to deal with this change which can be a whirligig of chaos, intellectually.

Remember the old gem about ‘sticks and stones’? Alas, this did not last and, much like so many other things, kids are growing up online, using the tools of modern society in ways no one ever saw coming.

Special snowflakes

For every generation there is a nickname, both official and unofficial, some of the more famous ones being Generation X, Baby Boomer and the not self-centered or arrogant in any way the Greatest Generation.

Despite running out of letters and names a while ago, back around Generation X, Millennial is still pretty a good name and much of what is assumed about this arbitrarily named age cohort is not really fair or accurate.

Big misunderstanding

The assumptions by elders regarding work ethic and attention-span are simply wrong-headed and based mostly on inter-generational misunderstanding. Millennials do work, but differently to their elders, which is not always a problems which studies have shown. Millennials and Boomers being the two groups who work together best in an office setting.

What they lack in terms of traditional attention-span is more than made up for by what is known as attention-range, or the ability to quickly process disparate strands of information. One stereotype that can be true, as according to evidence, is the tendency of Millennials to WAY overreact when confronted with something with which they disagree.

A tendency which has earned their generation the nickname ‘Generation Snowflake’. 

Tales from the echo-chamber

In an instance of irony worthy of Joe Orton, the characteristic for which Millennials are most criticized can be traced back to the technology they apparently love.

In the1980s television, yes that counts as technology, geared to children, began to shift gears slightly and useful lessons in terms of math and language and such were tinged with a healthy dose of self-esteem building.

Someone can only be told their special so many times before they start to believe it, particularly if they are five years old. This instilled a sense of self-importance many carried into their teenaged years and even adulthood.

A sense that is only really re-enforced by the Internet. Despite the horror stories surrounding Youtube comments, they can be turned off and comments on many other websites can also be moderated.

This along with targeted marketing and you ‘might also like’ suggestions, have created what is known as an ‘echo-chamber’, where only opinions with which one agrees are seen or heard.

In such a context, it is little wonder that critical thinking and respectful considered discourse has gone the way of MySpace. Something the video-game theme web-comic Penny Arcade satirized brilliantly, leading to one of their most popularly selling shirts which simply reads: “I’m going to the Internet to find someone who agrees with me.” This is the unironic motto of Generation Snowflake.

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Trevor McNeil spent much of his childhood playing video-games on early-form personal computers back when the disks were literally floppy. He attended the University of Victoria, completing a degree in Social Science with a concentration in Technology In Society, while also writing for the campus newspaper. He has written articles for such diverse publications as Humanity Death Watch, PopMatters and Perfect Sound Forever. He is a veteran of numerous “watershed moments” in the history of technological development and firmly believes that Han shot first.

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