I recently came across a Facebook video of Simon Sinek answering 'the millennial question' that he always gets asked in interviews. If you haven't seen the video, you can watch it here.
Millennials are categorised as people born "approximately 1984 and after..." and as soon as he said those words, I knew I was going to have a problem. Firstly, there is the problem I have with generational theory: people aged 30 and 18 are not going to have the same ideals and values. That's just how it is. But as I got further and further into the video, I couldn't help but disagree with what he was saying. I wanted to agree with him because he put his points so fluently and confidently, but largely of what I believed totally counteracted his argument.
His first argument is that parenting is, in part, responsible for why millennials are not happy even though they could have everything they want. In his words, millennials find out that "they are not special and their mums can't get them a promotion." At this point, I had to stop the video for a seconds to calm down. I may be the minority here, but I was never brought up to believe that life would be handed to me on a plate. Yes, I was brought up to believe that I was special and unique and at twenty years old, I still believe that. Why? Because I believe that this provides motivation. if you don't believe that you are special, how are you going to reach any of your goals and aspirations? if you believe that you are just 'ordinary' how can possibly someone believe that they can get what they want? But I was also brought up to believe that you can only get what you want through perseverance and hard work. Just because I believe that I am special does not mean I grew up in a fantasy. I know that the world is tough and can sometimes be cruel and you are not going to get what you want first time. Because I know to keep on trying and never give up. And that is not something I was taught.
Sinek then moves on to talk about technology, which always somehow becomes victimised. Sinek accuses millennials of "putting a filter on things" which, in my experience is incredibly untrue. I have learnt more about mental illness through social media that I did through school. I have learnt more about what it is like to live with anxiety and depression through Facebook than I ever did growing up. My generation are more matter-of-fact about mental illness than I have ever experience before. They are very raw in their experiences and do not sugar coat anything. And they share these experiences through social media accounts such as Facebook. And this is not a bad thing. Yes, we could go around telling every person to face to face of our bad experiences, but why would we do that when we could reach hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people in the space of a few hours? Do you know how long it would take to reach out to that many people in real life? A long damn time. Social media is a way to connect with people. Which, for some reason, everyone but millennials fail to realise.
Sinek accuses millennials of texting ten people when we feel down because it makes us feel good, rather than texting those ten people because we want to talk to them or confide in them. He says that social media has made us forget how to form deep, meaningful relationships which I doubt my boyfriend nor my best friends would be happy about hearing. For me, social media enhances my relationships that I have already made and, funnily enough, some of my closest friends I met online, and those relationships are deeper than most of the ones I have made in real life, and there is nothing wrong with that. There is a reason why 'social media' has the word 'social' in it for god's sake.
What I remember most from the video is Sinek's comparison of phones being the equivalent of opening a liquor cabinet to underage teenagers. Not only did I find this comparison shocking, but I also found it utterly offensive. Alcoholism is very, very different to using a mobile phone. Yes, I get the whole dopamine thing and that using a phone releases the same chemical that is released when you consume alcohol. But just because it releases the same chemical does not make it the same thing. I think it is rather damaging to compare using social media to alcohol addiction and is, in fact, not helpful at all. All that this comparison is teaching is that using your phone is wrong and bad things will happen if you do, which is untrue. I would go as far to say that social media has made me more of an understanding person, and has opened my eyes to people's views on mental health, LGBTQ and Black Lives Matter that I would never, ever been able to get the opportunity to hear without social media. I can connect with people on the other side of the world. So how can social media be a bad thing?
Millennial need to stop being demonised as 'tough to manage', 'entitled' and 'narcissistic'. I am a millennial and I am none of those things, I know I am not. But for a young person struggling to find out who they are, may be different story. Surely it is damaging to label millennials this way, especially if we are accused of having a low self image? What use is it to call our online relationships wrong and accuse us of not having social skills, just because it is different to how the older generation formed relationships? Like it or not, times are changing and the way relationships are made is changing, and there is nothing wrong with that. We need to stop being taught that how we live is wrong. Millennials need to stop being demonised.