Mark Twain once remarked that “all generalisations are wrong, including this one.” Twain’s sentiments offer an insight into how we humans refer to one another. It is often the case that generalisations are taken into everyday usage, and their meaning is taken as jest. However, in a digitalized, information processing, interconnected age, generalisations can lose their meanings. The meaning becomes distorted and becomes accepted as a recognised truth. An example of this occurred recently. The video in question was shared by MTV Australia and its title is ‘Our generation summed up/This guy just NAILED what it is to be a “Millennial.”
The problem is that it is a short clip of a longer video. The correct video is entitled ‘On Millennials in the workplace’. It features Simon Sinek being interviewed for Inside Quest. It has amassed over 4 million views. The clip shown on the page ‘MTV Australia’ lacks nuance, as it cherry-picks 15 minutes of speech into 1:15 of viewing time. Thus, you get the following quotes without any wider idea of the context in which they are being articulated in:
“We are growing up in a Facebook, Instagram World. In other words – we’re good at putting filters on things. We’re good at showing life is amazing – even though I’m depressed.”
. . .
“Everything you want you can have instantaneously, except – Job satisfaction and strength of relationships – there ain’t no app for that”.
The ‘recognised truth’ that may appear from these quotes after the video keeps on being shared, is that all millennials fit this depiction. An initial reaction to this may be the following, ‘this guy has made me feel terrible on my morning commute to university,’ as you happen to be viewing it on Facebook, as opposed to reading a book or enjoying life for example. However, when one watches the entire 15 minute video, the following points become clear.
Sinek is arguing that the “millennial problem” refers to those born 1984 and after, and millennials in the workplace are seen as “tough to manage and they are accused of being narcissistic, self-interested, unfocused and lazy”. Furthermore, he details this problem as being down to four characteristics. They are: parenting, technology, impatience and environment.
In regards to the parenting characteristics, he says that some argue failed parenting strategies are to blame for the millennial problem. Millennials have been raised to believe that they are special and that their parents can always help them out. These assumptions are shattered upon entering the work place. Therefore, this leads to a generation with lower self-esteem than previous generations. Hence, they take advantage of technology which is the second characteristic. This technology allows individuals to put filters on day to day life. Thus, I can show life to be amazing, even though I’m depressed. The antithesis of depression would be happiness. Unfortunately, we live in a society polluted by advertising which promises that an app can provide happiness. As a consequence, we have the third characteristic: impatience. Dinner? Deliveroo. Sex? Tinder. Bored? Netflix. And so on, and so on. The last characteristic of this problem is environment. The caricature of a corporate environment is that it is backstabbing and ruthless. This may be true in some job
s environments. However, the point is that when you put individuals who succumb to the first three characteristics into an environment that doesn’t really care for the individual, this isn’t likely to be healthy.
In some aspects, I agree with Sinek. In others, not so much. The purpose of this piece was to argue, that simple explanations require reflection. I agree with Sinek as millennials, including myself, need to stop using social media as much. I must admit I do have a tendency to check it too often throughout the day. On the other hand, I don’t agree with him, as the explanation of the “millennial problem” that has been portrayed from this video is that millennials have problems with their phones.
Sinek is right to point to the negative influences of technology on millennials. However, he misses out the following points that may need to be reflected on if the “millennial problem” is to be solved. The points are: job market shrinking for new graduates, house prices forcing young people to live with parents, housing again, increasing number of suicides amongst students, and earning less than the previous generation. In the face of these points, how should others look at millennials and millennials look at themselves? Well, both sides have had advantages and disadvantages in relation to life changes. Older generations did not have to pay for university. Millennials live in an age in which they have unlimited access to luxuries such as cheap travel, new technologies etc. A solution that may help one generation understand the next generation is the following ethic: “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”