The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation

I was in graduate school when I first heard the term “millennial.” It was at a conference. The session was about how to serve millennial students, because they have different characteristics than the Generation X students that went before them. It was here that I first started hearing things like “millennials need to be recognized for participation,” “millennials feel they are special,” “millennials are sheltered,” “millennials are likely to have helicopter parents,” and more. Society as a whole loves to hate on the millennial generation (those born between 1980-1999), calling us “special snowflakes” and sarcastically referring to us as “social justice warriors,” calling us out for “being offended by everything” and, everybody’s favorite, pointing out how very entitled we are.

Here’s the secret: We’re not.

millennial late for work.jpg

The negative opinions directed at millennials are a perfect example, on an enormous societal scale, of cultural gaslighting.

What’s Gaslighting?

Glad you asked. I learned about gaslighting within the last couple years as I explored topics surrounding emotional abuse and narcissism. Gaslighting is the psychological manipulation of making someone question their own sanity. It’s an emotional abuse tactic. It can also be described as “the attempt of one person to overwrite another person’s reality” (as defined in this article from Everyday Feminism).

Have you ever gotten into an argument with a parent, boss, or romantic partner about something they’ve done that upset you, but by the end of the argument, YOU’RE the one apologizing for hurting their feelings? This is often a result of gaslighting. They flip it around and become the victim, and your original feelings never get resolved because the conversation always descends into the other person’s victimization.

As one example from my life, when I first faced up to the fact that my first marriage was in real trouble and I was considering divorce, I (very calmly) asked my ex-husband if he’d consider marriage counseling. His response? “I cannot believe you can even ask that of me.” He was so offended by the suggestion that something was wrong that I questioned the validity of my feelings. “Oh my god,” I thought, “I must be terrible. Is anything even wrong or are my expectations just crazy?” This is an example of gaslighting.

Now imagine a similar scenario where you are applying for a job, but the job requires a college degree, but you can’t pay for a college degree without a job so you end up taking out massive loans. Then when you graduate, you still can’t get a job without experience. So you end up in a minimum wage job (or three), making ends meet and barely making your loan payments. You say something like, “the minimum wage needs to be raised, people can’t live like this,” only to receive a barrage of old, crotchety white people yelling at you about how gosh-darn ENTITLED you are, and how THEY got a college education working part time and how it’s your fault for taking out the loans in the first place.

This is what I’m talking about. Generations before us completely drove the bus into a lake and it’s somehow our fault everybody’s drowning.

working-on-laptop

What are Millennials really like?

So if millennials aren’t a bunch of spoiled brats with an entitlement mentality who need a trophy just for putting on pants in the morning, what are they?

I am in a Facebook group of geeky women (mostly moms) from around the world, and our group is capped at 500 members. When it was discovered that two of our members were actively fighting to get out of physically and emotionally abusive marriages and needed money for legal help and deposits for moving, the group arranged a massive auction and hundreds of members donated their belongings and purchased in the auction to raise thousands of dollars.

When another member of that same group was faced with an unimaginable loss and an enormous bill, we had more auctions and helped her get through the worst moment of her life as best we could.

I have shipped pet supplies, groceries, books, clothing, and more to broke friends whose kids and cats were hungry, who have experienced loss and just couldn’t get up to “adult,” and to people who needed to receive a message to pull themselves out of a bad place.

I see us raising money for funeral expenses, medical bills, emergency surgeries for beloved pets, and more. I see us trading services or goods for other services or goods. I see us sending money via PayPal to make somebody’s day a little easier. I see us buying things from work-at-home-moms on Etsy or Facebook rather than support large corporate stores.

Once, I could feel a cold coming on but I was out of grocery budget, and a friend shipped me a box of tea from Amazon. I’ve sent her groceries and pet supplies when her budget was tapped. This is our generation.

We barter and trade, we lift each other up when we need it, and we empower each other. We have each other’s back.

help-each-other

But what are they reeeeally like?

Anecdotal evidence aside, here’s some science.

First of all, it’s important to note that there are some 80 million people in the millennial generation, making us the largest cohort in history. This makes us very fun and easy to study. I pulled some data from a 2012 report from the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Millennials are tech-savvy, having been raised in the most technologically advancing decades of recent human history. We are optimistic (41% report satisfaction with the way the country is performing, compared to 26% of people over 30). Please note that this data was from 2012 and if I were a betting woman, I’d bet that fewer millennials are pleased with how the country is doing at this particular moment in time. 2016 has been rough.

“Young people are more tolerant of races and groups than older generations (47% vs. 19%) with 45% agreeing with preferential treatment to improve the position of minorities.” Not only are millennials the largest demographic, we’re also the most diverse. We are 60% non-Hispanic white (compared to 70% for older generations), 19% Hispanic, 14% black, 4% Asian, and 3% mixed race. Eleven percent of us are born to an immigrant parent. So the generation that hears “Why are you kids so offended by everything these days,” is offended because we’re sick and tired of seeing minorities vilified and punished by systemic racism within the system.

Millennials are multi-taskers. Multi-tasking is actually harmful to the brain and leads to a huge decrease in productivity. But, you know, we gotta work all these jobs and get everything done, lest we die penniless in the gutter.

Millennials are engaged and expressive: 75% have a social networking profile, 20% have posted a video of themselves online, 38% have 1-6 tattoos, 23% have non-earlobe piercings. The research indicates a trend toward “self-promoting,” which some skew to mean that millennials are self-confident (OH NO, THE HORROR) and self-absorbed. Others take this data to conclude that millennials are identifying their passions and making their own path instead of following others’ paths for them.

Millennials get their news from TV (65%) and online sources (59%).

Millennials may be the first generation in over 100 years to have a decrease of their average lifespan.

Millennials have a high graduation rate from high school (72% in 2012) and college enrollment rate (68% in 2012). Over half (58%) of millennials that enroll in a four-year college graduate within six years.

Millennials have an average of $25,000 in student loans. There is more student loan debt than credit card debt in the United States. Tuition rates are rising faster than inflation. However, enrollment continues to increase and there is a trend that jobs are paying more for more educated applicants.

On and on and on and on. Read the full report linked above for more statistics and research.

millennial-tattoo

Millennials struggle with mental health

Most millennials I know struggle with mental illness to some degree. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and more. I wonder how much of that anxiety comes from being told that wanting a living wage, affordable college, or adequate healthcare means that you’re being a spoiled entitled brat. It really doesn’t. The generations before us HAD a living wage, affordable college, and adequate healthcare. But now, inflation has far surpassed the minimum wage, college tuition and loan interest rates are through the proverbial roof, and medical bills are the top cause of bankruptcy in America.

These things were not caused by millennials, but after being raised on a steady diet of “you’re entitled,” we don’t even need to hear it from other people.  We believe it about ourselves. As a society, we now romanticize struggle, busy-ness, and “the hustle.” If you’re not losing sleep and working two or three jobs, you must not want it enough.

What if we’re actually not crazy? What if wanting to work one full-time job and have the ends not only meet but actually overlap a little is NOT an entitled pipe dream?

The sheer stress of existing in today’s world is enough to give anybody an anxiety disorder. Add  the fact that we’re told over and over again how we need to just bootstrap it, because generations before us handled life just fine, and you have a recipe for disaster. The generations before us could afford college tuition on minimum wage and didn’t have bosses who expect us to be tied to our devices at all hours.

I often feel this way about our financial goals. I have a full-time job and bring in extra income from freelance marketing work and resume writing. I make “good money” by most standards. And I catch myself thinking I should be working a part time job in the evenings or on the weekends to make our financial goals happen faster. But at what cost? I know for a fact that my mental health would suffer if I did that. I can’t even imagine the psychological stress of people who have to work multiple jobs just to meet their basic needs. We’ve got people working two or three jobs to feed their families that they barely see. That’s not even getting into the cost of child care.

depression

More reading on millennials and mental health:

Conclusions (for now)

The millennial generation has been tasked with fixing the broken system we inherited and chastised for not doing it right or for daring to suggest improvements.

If you think we’re doing a bad job, ask yourself how it got this way in the first place.

The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation

308 thoughts on “The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation

  1. Amita says:

    Very eye opening article. I admit that I may have said a few negative words about Millennials but out of my own ignorance. Thank you for educating me.

    • Stephen Vernon says:

      Not only does this article accurately represent social forces– those forces are purposeful and malevolent– just as much as Charles Boyer was to Ingrid Bergman. (See Powell memo below) They are also generationally cyclical (See Strauss and Howe, below). In American History, now, The Millennial Generation, corresponds to the Revolutionary War, The Civil War, And FDR and the Progressive era. That is to say– a change is goin’ to come (is on it’s way!)

      1. Supreme Court Justice Powell Memo: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_F._Powell_Jr.#Powell_Memorandum) The 1971 memo called for corporate America to become more aggressive in molding society’s thinking about business, government, politics and law in the US…The Powell Memorandum thus became the blueprint of the rise of the American conservative movement
      and
      2.Generations Cycles of Strauss and Howe : (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strauss%E2%80%93Howe_generational_theory)
      The generations in each archetype not only share a similar age-location in history, they also share some basic attitudes towards family, risk, culture and values, and civic engagement. In essence, generations shaped by similar early-life experiences develop similar collective personas and follow similar life-trajectories”

      If you’ve read this far a little more enticing info on each– (wikipedia, not leaks!) (Sorry, the links appear to disappear– maybe just because I’m just a moderately tech qualified boomer)

      S&H–In it they identify” a pattern in the historical generations they examined which revolved around generational events which they call turnings. In Generations, and in greater detail in The Fourth Turning, they identify the four-stage cycle of social or mood eras (i.e. turnings)…The two different types of eras and two formative age locations associated with them (childhood and young adulthood) produce four generational archetypes that repeat sequentially, in rhythm with the cycle of Crises and Awakenings. In Generations, Strauss and Howe refer to these four archetypes as Idealist, Reactive, Civic, and Adaptive. In The Fourth Turning (1997) they update this terminology to Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist. The generations in each archetype not only share a similar age-location in history, they also share some basic attitudes towards family, risk, culture and values, and civic engagement. In essence, generations shaped by similar early-life experiences develop similar collective personas and follow similar life-trajectories”

      Powell–On August 23, 1971, prior to accepting Nixon’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Powell was commissioned by his neighbor, Eugene B. Sydnor Jr., a close friend and education director of the US Chamber of Commerce, to write a confidential memorandum titled “Attack on the American Free Enterprise System,”
      The memo called for corporate America to become more aggressive in molding society’s thinking about business, government, politics and law in the US. It sparked wealthy heirs of earlier American Industrialists like the Koch’s, Richard Mellon Scaife, the Earhart Foundation, money which came from an oil fortune, the Smith Richardson Foundation, from the cough medicine dynasty to use their private charitable foundations, which did not have to report their political activities to join the Carthage Foundation, founded by Scaife in 1964 to fund Powell’s vision of a pro-business, anti-socialist, minimalist government-regulated America as it had been in the heyday of early American industrialism, before the Great Depression and the rise of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

      The Powell Memorandum thus became the blueprint of the rise of the American conservative movement and the formation of a network of influential right-wing think tanks and lobbying organizations, such as The Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as well as inspiring the US Chamber of Commerce to become far more politically active.

      Finally — just how is a good pagan supposed to relate to the term “millennial”, anyhow… ?

      stephenadairvernon.blogspot.com; therapistsforsingle payer.org

  2. Cameron says:

    I’m a young Gen-Xer (b.1977), and I never really experienced the “Reality Bites” phenomenon, but I’ve definitely felt some of the Millennial sinking bus effects. It’s a weird cusp to find oneself at. I am old enough to have voted for a Clinton, but not so young that I routinely get the Gaslight treatment you so aptly describe. The older Millennials I know are so like your examples, creative problem solvers who use common resources and aren’t afraid to be pissed off that the bus is in the lake. I personally always felt like I wasn’t permitted to be upset at the debt I was cornered into assuming on the promise of that education being a golden ticket to prosperity, not allowed to complain that creating my own career post-college was blocked at every turn by lack of affordable insurance without a “real job”, rejected mortgage and credit applications because I didn’t have direct deposit stubs from a “real job.” Things are changing in those regards, but it’s still challenging. I’m raising a 21st century kid, and wondering how we can affect change to make the world better for his cohort, and I definitely look at the example of my younger colleagues as opposed to my Boomer parents’ generation for inspiring positive change.

  3. Robin D says:

    Generational attitude shifts are very real. I am the youngest in my family (I’m 41 now) My sibs are 12, 10, & 9 years older than I (the 10 year older sis is exactly that – our b-days are one day apart). We were all raised by the same parents (married 50+ years) in the same house. My hobbies, entertainments, and even my life/educational choices are very different than my siblings. What I want in life, what I feel brings happiness is different than their ideas. Over the years, even into my 30s, I have been on the receiving end of their derision for my lifestyle. For example I enjoy anime & comic books – I’m a huge geek & even met my DH through an online roll playing game. My elder brother often used my geekness as some kind of proof that I was immature. It’s not just hobbies; I received put downs when I chose my graduate school. It wasn’t a “big name” school a couple of them just kept dissing it. Wouldn’t even acknowledge the fact that it was one of the top schools in my chosen profession. It wasn’t how they would have done it so therefore I was wrong.

    I have seen similar situations in my BFFs family – She’s the second to last kid in a 12 child family. So, ya I think there is a BIG difference in a 10 year gap. I also believe that no matter when you are born the people 10ish years older than you will see you as kids that need to grow up – even when you ARE over 30 & well into your own. I’d like to think a Gen Xer like me is more open and supportive to Mills (like my niece and nephew who are amazing and hard working). Seriously I have way more in common with them than their parents.

    With all that said, I also think geography plays a HUGE role in attitudes. My sister who moved to NYC in her early 20s has a very different take on things than our brother who moved to Oklahoma. I & my DH (sort of Rocky Mountain/west coast culture) have different attitudes about money & what is needed to be happy than our sibs who live on the east coast. Conclusion, maybe it’s both generational & geography. Food for thoughts that’s all.

  4. Eileen Burke says:

    Gaslight is a classic movie; watch it if you get the chance. She’s sure there’s someone in the attic, because the lights are going dim, as gaslights did when someone turned on a light in another room. He tries to convince her, and everyone else, that she’s crazy. hmm. This article doesn’t live up to its name–one incident doesn’t add up to the “gaslighting” of a generation. The author doesn’t seem to know much about other generations. Living wages and affordable health care and college? Minimum wage at my first job was $1.50 an hour, less federal and Social Security tax, later also state income tax and city wage tax. My first “real” job was $98 a week–I worked in an office, at a job that might have had a future, if I could live on the pay long enough. It had health care benefits–if you were hospitalized for more than two weeks the insurance would pick up 80% of the hospital bill , but you had to pay the first two weeks yourself. Jobs like the one I had were starting to go to college graduates, with any degree, instead of high school graduates. College was more affordable, but most people just paid for it–just paid the bill, in cash, every semester. It was a couple of thousand a year, not a couple of hundred. Most people didn’t have that much money, and many couldn’t have qualified for a loan. State and county colleges were and still are cheaper–many people still graduate from them with little or no debt. Although the author claims she’s not “entitled” she seems to know only people who are just that–always had plenty and never worked hard to get it–or, she doesn’t seem to understand that the older people she sees around her were once young, with mortgages, too much work, and children to care for.

    • Caitlin says:

      My single mother worked three jobs and we were on food stamps when I was a kid, so I would not specifically qualify that as “having plenty and not working hard to get it.” I appreciate your other comments but not the assumptions about my life. Thank you for taking the time to read and respond.

  5. Brandon Porter says:

    While there are some GenX-ers replying on here, we can’t take support from Millennials for an article lifting up Millennials too seriously.

    Anecdotally, Millennials are a lot like the stereotype says they are. Many are narcissistic, selfish, and “all about me.” How can they not be – their parents have made them out to feel like they are somehow god-like, and if not their parents, then their friends online who like their posts about toothbrush and sock choices.

    Millennials also have posted thousands of pics of themselves online, fishing for compliments and, in many cases, building their self-esteem and self-image around comments on those pics – like a junkie looking for the next dopamine hit. What’s worse, they’ve posted thousands of pics of their kids online, without their consent, as if the parents know that their kids will want an online presence by the age of 4.

    And just because Millennials donate money and/or goods to each other doesn’t make them altruistic and it doesn’t mean their not narcissistic. One can use “good” actions to continue to boost his/her own ego, making the action to help others not about others at all, but about the person who gives.

  6. Jodi Traver Robinson says:

    Fantastic article, Caitlin!! I’m an X’er here (born 1971) and I have a real respect for your generation. Keep plugging on. I have faith in your generation and look forward to seeing how you roll. All generations have had their strengths and foibles. Be strong and show us what you have to offer!!

  7. Ryan says:

    That’s a bit inaccurate. College graduates aren’t having a harder time finding a job or paying their bills. They just have higher expectations and iPods.

    Seriously don’t whine. Life is more expensive now, because the standard of living is so high.

    Also, I find the extremely high rate of mental illness amount your Bekannten really disturbing. Not that means your crazy or anything, but it isn’t normal. I hope it is just the result of over psychoanalysizing everything.

  8. Peter says:

    You brag against racism, but in the same time you don’t realize that you are stereotyping as much as the people you are complaining against.
    Just read your own words…

    “…only to receive a barrage of old, crotchety white people yelling at you about how gosh-darn ENTITLED you are”

    If this isn’t racism and stereotyping in it’s purest form then I don’t know what else is.

  9. Carla says:

    I too want to say Bravo and thank you for this delightful post. I am a Gen X’er that had to work from age 13 on. It wasn’t easy and I’m a better person for it. I raised my kids the same way. One is a Millennial and the other an early Gen Z. Neither feel entitled but the both have the Self-Confidence and more importantly the Self-Awareness to know that what they do affects others. While my Millennial is a bit spoiled by her family – she works extremely hard, holding down a part time job – juggling 18 credits in college a semester so she doesn’t go beyond 4 years, taking on unpaid internships to give her the experience she needs to get a good job after graduation to pay off the insane college loans she needed and building her own “brand” which is a requirement these days.

    The world is in desperate need of change and Millennials have the empathy and energy to help cultivate this change. At 47, I just completed my Master’s degree and I was inspired by my 20 – 30 yr old colleagues. They pushed me on when I thought I was in over my head. They helped me see how I could make a difference. We need to collaborate together and embrace the changes needed or we will not be living in such a great world.

  10. Caroline Driver says:

    I think I’m a Boomer, (1961), so I’ve seen the transitions through the years. I’m also in the UK, so things are probably a bit different here. But I remember when we could go to college on a grant, not a loan, (kicking myself now that I didn’t bother), and although jobs were getting a bit trickier to find at the end of the 70’s, it wasn’t too bad, and I’ve never been out of work apart from time off to have a baby. She is a Millennial (1997), and she seems so much wiser, so much more together than I was at her age. She is a little weird in that she didn’t have the teenage temper tantrums and ‘I hate you, it’s not fair’ that is expected. Perhaps she’s Indigo. Anyway. I do worry about how the future will treat her. I told her some years ago that we will never see her homeless (as long as we have a home!), but I also hope that she doesn’t have to turn into one of those middle aged women looking after her aging parents. I want her to go out and live her own life. I’m just really unsure how she’s going to manage it. But. We are in the middle of a revolution, and I’m sure that parents back during the Industrial Revolution may have felt very similar feelings, with traditional jobs disappearing all over and poverty a real spectre. Humans are adaptable, the young especially. Even if I can’t see how things are going to turn out, I have hope that my daughter and her generation will roll with the punches and come out the other side.

  11. Ross Williams says:

    Gaslighting comes from a movie. It was not about “emotional abuse”, or at least not just emotional abuse. It was about convincing someone they were going crazy and imagining things.

    If your ex convinced you were going crazy and that just the day before you were saying how wonderful your marriage was, that would be gaslighting. Turning things around and making themselves the victim is not gaslighting, convincing you that you are crazy and it never really happened would be gaslighting you.

    Frankly all generational claims are mostly media bs. We do share experiences with people our own age and that creates a shared reality but that is mostly a continuum. There are times where a dramatic change happens and there is a real break between generations. But that is pretty rare. In the US, prohibition, the depression, World War II, the 60’s sexual/cultural/womens/civil rights revolution and the 90’s technology revolution were those kinds of society wide earthquakes.

    Millenials do not appear to me to be much different than previous generations and the complaints are largely old people complaining about “kids these days”. They are always spoiled, have it easy and don’t work hard enough.

  12. ZD says:

    Here’s an observation I’ve had that I don’t see mentioned.
    I’m a Gen-Xer that is friends with Boomers and Millennials.

    My older Boomer friends all, and I DO mean ALL, talk about how they are going to spend all the money they earned before they die. Their kids are on their own for educations and jobs–they’ve taught them properly and their obligation stops there.

    But wealth is built through inheritance/generationally. It takes money to make money. There is no opportunity to invest when you’re living paycheck to paycheck–no stock market, no property (land or housing). The upsides the wealthier Boomers can take advantage of do not exist for many X-ers or Millennials.

    The Millennials I’ve had this type of conversation with all talk about how they can help their kids in future–very similar to first generation immigrants sacrificing for their kids’ futures. Anecdotal, but it informs my personal opinion of the Boomers as myopic and selfish.

  13. Barry E. Price says:

    I hesitate to comment at all — not because of anything in the article itself per se — but by the general tone of the comments. I was born in 1973, so I guess that makes me a Gen Xer? Personally, I don’t put a huge stock in grouping people together arbitrarily in 20-year blocks. I also am not a fan of trying to attach ‘fault” of some perceived disadvantage to some other “generation” of people.
    The truth of the matter is, ALL generations face unique challenges when coming of age and trying to make sense of the world. They also have the benefit of inherent advantages the previous generation did not. That’s called life. It doesn’t matter what year you were born.
    The problem most “younger” generations face, is that they can’t help but view their circumstances through the prism of how it affects them in the moment — likely before they’ve had enough time on this Earth to really understand how life is not about being “fair”, or “just”, or even remotely equitable. That understanding generally only comes the hard way – through the experiencing the highs and lows of the “crapshoot” we call “life”.
    I remember vividly, the 25-year-old version of myself, who thought he knew everything, had the world all figured out, and couldn’t wait to push the old, whining 40-something windbags out of my way, so I could start living the type of life I felt I was striving harder for than those “old” people who were busy being concerned with raising kids and appeared miserable.
    But a funny thing happened on the way to my 40’s (and as embarrassed as I am to admit this, it’s completely true), I essentially became those people I used to swear I would never become. Here’s another little pearl of wisdom they don’t tell you when you are young: the grown-ups that are raising kids and trying to keep everything together — they don’t know what the hell they are doing any more than you do. The main difference is, they know they don’t have it all figured out, and they are okay with it. It is only then that you can make peace with the fact the world is fucked-up for everyone in their own unique way.
    The next time you are feeling put-upon, or think your generation is getting a bad wrap, just remember this: at least you didn’t have to stop a genocide in Germany, or where a black person in America in the 1800’s.

  14. John says:

    Nice article, Caitlin. One thing I don’t see in the generational discussions is the memory of both Gen Xers and Boomers being called similar names when they were young. We Gen Xers were called “slackers, lazy, and selfish”. Criticized for rejecting the social norms of career, the “responsible commitment” to hierarchies and institutions, etc by older generations…sound familiar? 🙂 And the boomers were called the “Me Generation” by their parents when they were young, and criticized for their self-absorbed approach, putting the pleasures of life over responsibilities. Meh.

    I do see thematic differences in our generations, but a lot of the Millennial shade is just what 20-somethings experience on their path through life. I’ll bet Millennials in their 40’s will look different as they process middle-age, and different in their 60’s as they face old age. Just like Xers and Boomers did before them. And you might even call the youngsters a bunch of entitled brats that don’t understand what it’s like to work part time carrying a REAL college debt.😉

    That said, I cringe for the Millennial experience of debt. It’s truly a social injustice, with damaging impacts on a whole generation of our society, not to mention how it ripples out through upcoming generations.

  15. Hannah says:

    Or could it be that millennials fight mental illness more than any other generation because they’re the most technologically plugged-in generation that also multi-tasks?

    Research has shown that happiness is associated with a state of flow, which requires intense focus, something which cannot happen if multi-tasking.

  16. Obol says:

    I’m an X’r and I love this article. Admittedly, I do partake in the occasional joke, I do not have a truly negative view of Millennials. In fact, I know a disproportionate number of folks in this range. Some could use a bit more focus, like representatives from any generation, but I can’t think of a single person that embodies the negative stereotype.

    I’m absolutely in love with the idea of our young folks creating sweeping social change and it’s happening.

    Thank you, Millennial!

  17. Marty says:

    Isn’t this whole article a great example of gaslighting? I started reading this article with an open mind and ended up feeling like I should apologize to millennials.

    “Gaslighting is the psychological manipulation of making someone question their own sanity. It’s an emotional abuse tactic. It can also be described as “the attempt of one person to overwrite another person’s reality” “

    • Caitlin says:

      Hi Marty, thanks for your comment. It’s not my intention to broadly paint each generation before me as solely responsible for all the crap my generation deals with. It’s a societal trend as a whole but not down to each individual person who happened to be born in those generations. Just like it’s unfair to paint millennials as lazy, entitled people who shouldn’t reproduce or have pets if they can’t pay rent on time.

      I’d ask you to reflect and think about why you feel compelled to apologize, if that was indeed your true feeling coming away from this post. Do you feel like you’ve been manipulated and tricked into blaming yourself for this generation’s problems? Do you see examples in your own life of times when you believed these things or treated millennial people poorly because of the ingrained prejudices society has produced?

      To be totally honest, I couldn’t tell if your comment was genuine or not (after sifting through a handful of clearly trolling comments this morning) but figured it’s better to invite a conversation so I can understand how to more effectively communicate my thoughts without making others feel like I’m blaming them personally. Thanks for reading!

  18. Cheryl says:

    I appreciate the article for the sharing of personal and shared experience and perspective. But for that very reason, I fault it for painting Others somewhat simplistically with a broad brush. It’s neither helpful nor accurate to demonize — to classify all persons born in a decade or set of decades as having X characteristics and beliefs, struggles, privileges, or experiences. This is myopic and unhelpful — just as much so as when the focus is on you and your generation.

  19. Park says:

    I was pretty sure my comment wouldn’t be posted. One major thing Millennials lack is the ability to stomach opposing arguments.

    • Caitlin says:

      Hi Park. In my moderation of comments I have published many opposing arguments. What I am not publishing are comments that are unrelated to the topic or otherwise just being written to incite a negative response. I have to skim and quickly decide which to do after receiving a barrage of comments since this post’s publication so if yours was mistakenly trashed I welcome you to re-write it and submit again. Thanks for reading.

  20. wisconsinwriter says:

    I have no problem with millennials. Don’t let people bring you down!

    I remember when I was just starting out as a legal secretary (because my degree and $10,000 in student loan was pretty much worthless at that time and jobs were scarce), my boss tossed this issue of Time magazine on my desk. (see the link below) Then he informed me that my generation was INDEED lazy and unfocused. Whatever. A few months later I had my brother back the family station wagon up to the door and cleaned out my desk. Guess I could make a decision when it was necessary!

    I’ve shared this article with Millennials and they see themselves in it, too. I hope I never get to the point where I am telling younger people to get off my lawn.

    http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,970634,00.html

  21. rivelle says:

    The social, economic, political and (mega) subjective conditions that you describe are the formula for the creation of revolutionaries.

    Read CIA counter-insurgency manuals on Latin America. Those conditions that existed then that led to the creation of so many Leftist movements are now being replicated in the USA.

    Young people with no real prospects. But with energy, intelligence and creativity.

    And, if they so choose, access to entire libraries of revolutionary thought.

    Immanuel Wallerstein. Slavoj Zizek, Roberto Unger. et. al.

    This is the nature of periods of historical transition from one epoch to its successor historical epoch.

    This is the death agonies which accompany the terminal historical crisis of the 500 year old Capitalist World-System.

    We are hurtling toward the post-Capitalist World-system or systems.

    Ready or not. For better or for worse.

    That is the real nature of all significant political struggles today.

    • Steve Clark says:

      Oh, please. Young baby boomers in 1968 were saying the same things and were engaged in far more revolutionary activities. Then the draft ended and they elected Reagan in 1980.

  22. Storm says:

    I am a millennial mom of 3 kids, with 3 jobs and I go to school. I work so much and so hard that I never see my family and never seem to have enough money. So I also make crafts and do odd jobs to buy my kids stuff. I honestly don’t remember the last time I was not stressed out, I have ADD and OCD with a dash of anxiety, 3 hurniated disks, and vitamin issues because my family eats before I do. I don’t ask like to ask for help but sometimes I need it however people assume that I am just driven and greedy or so I think they do and have scoffed at my poor state of affairs. I grew up middle class and now I am poor.
    Thank you for writing this because I am always the youngest person in any group and they never understand why I am late because I have to drop kids off or pick them or why I alway wait the same cloths. it’s nice to know that I am not crazy

  23. Richard M. Stallman says:

    Millenials may be “tech-savvy” about how to operate technology,
    but not about recognizing when it is designed to mistreat people.
    They seem not to see the problem in being used by Facebook
    (see stallman.org/facebook.html) or why Amazon is a bad place
    to buy anything whatsoever (see stallman.org/amazon.html).

    More generally, most millenials don’t recognize the injustice
    of programs that are not controlled by the users (see fsf.org/tedx).

  24. Murphy, Damian says:

    Just wanted to leave my 2 cents worth of encouragement. I was born in 1972, and spent the 1990s living in a swank brick building in the heart of the city (Seattle) on a part time dish washing job. I wasn’t exactly living rich, but I was able to pay rent and eat most of the time. There is no way in one thousand hells that I would be able to do that with Seattle rents the way they are now. In fact, it wouldn’t be possible with 3 full-time dish washing jobs. Not even close. The fact is, I have no idea what I would do if I were in my early 20s with only a few years worth of working experience under my belt in this day and age.

    It makes me a little but weepy to see so many so-called adults heaping abuse on this generation. So much for the passing on of wisdom. Anyway, just know that a tiny percentage of us do think differently, and offer you our encouragement and admiration, as well as, where possible, our support.

  25. Steve Clark says:

    The long list of facts that you recite from studies sound right to me. But you do understand that nothing about them is inconsistent with the less attractive characteristics that have been attributed to this generation, right? You could also document at least some of those through numerous articles who’ve investigated the increased burdens that universities have experienced as a result of an influx of young people who lack rudimentary adult coping skills.

    On the other hand, some of the characteristics that you claim are attributed to the entire generation are only attributed to some subset and aren’t necessarily associated with a generational status. One of these is the accusation of being a “social justice warrior.” As to that one, sorry, but this gay Gen-Xer finds that term useful to describe a set of folks, often young people but not always, who, in my view, respond to even the most minute breach of their extensive code of “correct” behavior with shrill castigation and epic sanctimony, which rarely accomplishes anything constructive. I see it on issue after issue after issue. It’s so counterproductive that I don’t *want* it done in defense of gay equality. These folks may be tolerant of the people and things that their code of correct behavior instructs them to tolerate, but they are among the least tolerant folks of criticism or different opinions that I’ve ever encounter. I genuinely fear for the future of free speech because I see very little concern for its value among these folks, who too often morph into rampaging lynch mobs. Bernie Bros were just one manifestation of the problem.

  26. Penny says:

    Unfortunately the world we live in bombards us with a never ending list of gotta haves, the things our parents or grandparents possessed were obtained over a period of years. today the things we purchase do not last 30 years as they used to creating a need to replace them way more often. there are also those things that we are made to believe we have to have when in fact they are not necessary for life or even happiness even though marketing tries to make us believe that they are. priorities can either alleviate or exacerbate stress levels depending on where they lie. I have seen people of all generations living various different ways, some chose to focus on careers others family and still others try to have it all, but something will always give someway somehow, either you won’t get it all no matter how hard you work or you lose your sanity or maybe your so busy you can’t enjoy what it is you have worked so hard for. this world would have us believe that you can’t be happy unless you “have it all”, but even then they keep moving the goal post to keep you chasing after it. we all need to check our priorities, decide what we want and what we are willing to do or give up in order to have it and stop whining. If you are choosing to chase after the so called American dream then know that the race will never end cause no matter what you have you will always be told that you should have more or something other than what you have worked so hard for. be happy with your accomplishments because they are yours, and only you can decide what kind of race you will run, will it be with true purpose or to chase after an ever changing goal.

  27. Sissy MacK says:

    Gas lighting younger generations seems to be just another disease of old age. Our grandparents generation didn’t approve of our parents generation and now our parents don’t approve of ours. Hopefully we are more open minded with our children.

  28. Angela Madera says:

    Thank you so much for explaining gas lighting. Its exactly how I feel when people, especially baby boomers use criticism which tries to point out YOUR incompetence as the main point. Now that I’m all gown up I interpret this behavior differently, its gas lighting . thank you!!! Great post can’t wait to read more.

  29. michelle says:

    I love this post. I also wonder if millennials SEEM to have more mental health issues than previous generations, but in fact don’t really. Perhaps some of the elevated number is due to the fact that millennials are open enough to admit what our PTSD, alcoholic, valium popping forefathers and foremothers couldn’t. I know both my parents suffered from all sorts of mental health issues due to working double shifts and caring for parents in Lebanon, bringing over relatives who were shell-shocked, and all that basic troubled immigrant story stuff. But they believed they had to be stoic, and never sought help. Instead, they developed diabetes and heart disease. But millennials are possibly more open to calling it like it is and getting the help they need and deserve.

    That doesn’t negate that the economic realities are unbelievably awful, but I would put forth that they have been unbelievably awful for a long time for anyone other than white people in certain moments in history. And anyone saying “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps” is probably ignoring the hand up they got from government programs (college tuition, real estate deals, land grants etc) that favored white people over Native Americans, African Americans, and a wide swath of immigrant groups throughout our history.

  30. larastillo says:

    Thank you for a solidly written (and humorous – always appreciated) article on sociology and demographic cohorts – love these topics. I’m a gen x, but personally feel every cohort is interesting, has challenges, has pros/cons, and is neither bad nor good. It’s just people. We all have different experiences and things to learn and share. This is what makes life rich. We always look for people to point fingers at for our problems, but it’s never that simple. Instead, it’s beautiful, fulfilling, and enriching to work together, respect and support one another, and keep growing.
    I love your home/about page, btw. I’m a huge minimalist – keeping life simple and focused on the truly important things keeps it rich and deep. So thank you for presenting all this! Think I have to try that pot pie soup recipe was just looking at, too ; p

  31. tatianatomich says:

    Freedom from desire means freedom from pain and suffering.
    Being grateful for what we already have (our breath, our body) will give us more gifts than looking outside ourselves for satisfaction.
    Thank you for sharing. Your words elevate society.

  32. Kathryn Grace says:

    Thank you for this post. As an aged baby boomer, I keep seeing references to millennials and often wonder what the folks in that group think of all the labels and analysis thrown at them and about them.

    Hearing from you, as you experience it, is most helpful. I’ll follow your blog and look forward to learning more.

  33. jakerose says:

    An expertly-written post! I’m a millennial myself, and I didn’t know that much about my own generation until now. I agree though, that our’s is one that is truly misunderstood, and I also feel that older generations tend to blame us for society’s problems without thinking how those problems got there in the first place. It was interesting reading up on the facts about and obstacles currently facing millennials. Very insightful post!

  34. Wes Hicks says:

    Reading this just makes all the rumors about the millennials true. You whine and whine about how you can barely afford whatever! Guess what??? My family didn’t have money either! I have lived on my own since I was 16. I never got a chance to go to college. I worked many jobs at once until I got one okay job as a restaurant manager at the age of 23. It was great I made 32K a year and only had to work 6 days a week, for 70 hours a week, 51 weeks a year. I finally got a job in sales when I was 28 (Another 65-70- hour job) and started making better money with some benefits. I started my own business 13 years ago working allot! At least I will be able to take care of myself, my mother needs help, and I have 2 millennials myself that need help. I must say I’m proud of them. They don’t whine as much as the rest of you. I’m not sure why. One is a vegan though! My point many of us have had to the same thing and apparently more to get by. We just do what we have too! Also America was a greater place at one time. I was a very young child then. I’m 46 now, but it was when we used to build things!!! I remember made in America on almost everything! I never seen made in China till I was almost a teenager. This is it!!! You want a change? You have to make the change! You want a better life? YOU have to build it. If you expect something more out of America then you better be prepared to change America! And by the way you kids don’t know how , or what to do for it to get better either. I want you and my grandchildren to have a better life. Your generation will have their time to govern the country. We your parents didn’t sell America down the road either, but we are fixing it right now!!! The best thing for you to do is sit down, get the hell out of the streets, shut up, and pay attention! Your road is a hard one I know. We are in it together remember that. In order to fix what our corrupt government broke it’s not only going to take time, but also work and some uncomfortable moments. That’s life and the faster your generation figures that out the faster we can fix it!

  35. katiephyllis says:

    Caitlin, only just discovered your blog. The link to the article about gas lighting stopped me in my tracks – the best written piece about it I’ve found so far. Thanks for that link, if nothing else. I am older than the millennial, but wanted to say it gave me hope and insight into how some of you may feel. Hope for the future. I don’t view you all the same, that would be wrong, but it was a good exercise to get a viewpoint to help give me an ‘in’ to some of your mindset. Thanks

  36. doctorwonderful says:

    Hi Caitlin. This is a beautifully written article that I’m happy to find. I’m a baby boomer. My daughter is generation Y and my son a millennial. The struggle is real…for all generations. I heard a college professor say last year that if you’re born middle class you’re already at a disadvantage when it comes to education. I was born poor, married poor, and then began the struggle to improve so my children could have a better life. My struggle was extreme for the first 50 years. I started college at 50. Things are finally getting easier. My gen Y daughter excelled. She’s an executive with a Fortune 100 company and brings home nearly $200,000 per year. Things have been tougher for my millennial son. We were easier on him. He is entitled. He is different from baby boomers and gen X-ers.

    My parents generation improved their work life by forming unions and fighting for humane treatment at work. It made things better for baby boomers. We were able to bring in a living wage. Then, people began outsourcing and the work dynamic changed. To many baby boomers, we don’t understand why millennials are anti-union or why they protest the very types of government that could make things better for them. It seems like millennials are on the road to keeping themselves down. When baby boomers try to say what worked for us, why we had things better, well, we just don’t know what we’re talking about.

    So…the struggle is real for all of us. We’re in this earth thing together.

    I really enjoyed your insights on gaslighting. Very informative.

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