By Serena Ellens
So they say we are “entitled.”
They say that we, the Millennial generation, have come to expect a certain standard of living that simultaneously fosters laziness and discourages patience.
They call us “ungrateful” when we waste our money on foamed lattes, the next iPhone or a nicely timed “Gap Year”—otherwise known to them as an excuse to roam abroad and neglect responsibilities. They remind us that “money doesn’t grow on trees,” and that a “penny saved is a penny earned” (even though paper money does actually grow on trees, and the penny actually costs more to make than it’s worth).
They say that we have a terrible work ethic, an unhealthy addiction to entertainment and an intolerably obtuse perspective that makes us believe we are the sole beings on the planet that matter.
They accuse us of ADD and instant gratification, telling us that our forms of entertainment diminish our ability to stay focused, put our nose to the grindstone and get work done. They don’t understand why it’s so difficult for us to fund our own schooling, hold onto an after-school job and generally take care of responsibilities.
They say this as they watch us expertly wield our smartphones and tablets, figuring out how to use new apps in the span of a second and managing to download videos without ever first learning how. They stare as we fiddle and improvise with these pieces of technological genius, shuddering as we use them merely for watching cat videos or for taking photos of our food.
What’s our deal? Entitlement. That’s our deal.
While they worked hard after school, making enough money at their local ice cream shop job or working shifts cleaning for their grandmother, we played after school sports and received participation trophies.
While they wrote every assignment by hand and painstakingly typed the document on a typewriter, we refused to complete the assignment because our internet was down and there was no way we could complete the task without Google Documents at hand.
And while they socialized at dinner outings, telling each other stories from the day or describing an event from the previous week, we sat with eyes glued to our screens, Instagramming about our food and finding a hashtag for our dinner.
But what about us? We think they might be a little wrong about some things—and maybe a little right about others.
We agree that instant gratification is expected in our entertainment, but part of this means that we are constantly analyzing situations to determine what benefits we can gain from them. We come with expectations; the expectation to be easily entertained, yes, but also the expectation to receive entertainment that has been thoughtfully constructed and progresses past what we’ve historically been able to produce.
We expect immediate results because we helped to make it possible for immediate results to occur. Therefore, we demand the best from ourselves and from others, and are not willing to wait on what we know is possible.
We also agree that we are highly dependent on the internet. Perhaps that is posed as a problem, since our dependency makes us “antisocial” or increases our likelihood of failure without it. However, that ideology may not be entirely true.
The truth of the matter is that we are more connected now than ever before, and we have the unique ability to connect with people outside our neighborhood, school system or country.
And as for our dependency on the internet, if we’ve learned one thing from the worldwide web, it’s the importance of information. With massive amounts of information dumped into the internet every day, discovering real and valuable information is rare and therefore is something we treasure and store. Make no mistake, the internet is not our crutch, it is our weapon.
We millennials will probably even agree that our work ethic is different from theirs, which is partly because we have to work more in order to make even close to the amount we need for tuition, and partly because we struggle to find jobs that fulfill the requirements we need for internships and future careers. The job market of today is a scary place and since a high school diploma is no longer guaranteed to keep you alive out there, it’s no wonder we’re drowning in student loans and failing to make rent.
We will agree that we are young and probably foolish, that we obsess over the internet and demand satisfaction, and even that we want to find gratification in this crazy, unpredictable world they have left for us.
But we will not agree that we are entitled.
Because even though they don’t carry smartphones or identify with memes, we are not so different from them.
They say we are entitled. We say we are the future.
Serena is a senior English major from Grand Rapids, Michigan.