Millennials stopped sexting and emoji-ing just long enough this week to notice something curious on the Internet: A story in TIME titled, "The Me Me Me Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents. Why they'll save us all."
It was written by Joel Stein, a member of Gen X, which invented flannel and Wynona Ryder. The cover features a girl taking a selfie on her iPhone. It's a skill every millennial learns now instead of how to write in cursive. (We made a listicle about it, the millennial's preferred way of consuming information.)
Stein balances negative traits associated with millennials (narcissistic, lazy, stunted) with positive ones (resourceful, optimistic, adaptable) for what Salon's Daniel D'Addario calls an "admirably executed" story. TIME's cover alone, however, was enough to raise the ire of millennials, who took to the internet to do what they do best — talk about themselves:
1. The Awl
The Awl — an online publication popular with millennials — summed up TIME's business savvy in a tweet that linked to some photos, a new-fangled method of driving something they call "traffic" to "content."
'Time' Makes Smart Move In Trolling Generation That Does Nothing Else But React On Social Media - theawl.com/?p=166981— The Awl (@Awl) May 9, 2013
2. TIME Millennials
Once millennials are done tweeting, they check Tumblr, just in case someone posted a picture of Ryan Gosling. That's where TIME Millennials was born. It showcases one of the Me Me Me Generation's greatest talents: Creating memes, this time out of a controversial magazine cover:
3. Marc Tracy, New Republic
Marc Tracy, a self-proclaimed millennial, wonders if members of his generation are "stunted" — i.e., not leaving their parents' house, getting married, or having kids — because older generations left them with a shattered economy:
Right now, older generations are in the process of slowly bequeathing millennials a society more "in debt" than ever before: "in debt" in the sense of living on borrowed time, with only future, merely hypothetical promises as collateral — "in debt" ecologically, financially, politically, culturally. At this moment, TIME has decided to focus on the millennials, and to tar them as "entitled" for not feeling totally okay about all of this. [New Republic]
4. Elspeth Reeve, The Atlantic Wire
Reeve takes us on a nostalgic tour of alarmist magazine covers past, from a 1976 New York article by Tom Wolfe titled "The Me Generation," to another TIME special saying this about Generation X:
They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder… They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial… They postpone marriage because they dread divorce. [TIME]
The problem with these stories, says Reeve, is that everyone, in every generation, is kind of lost and navel-gazing in their 20s.
"Basically, it's not that people born after 1980 are narcissists, it's that young people are narcissists, and they get over themselves as they get older," Reeve writes. "It's like doing a study of toddlers and declaring those born since 2010 are 'Generation Sociopath: Kids These Days Will Pull Your Hair, Pee On Walls, Throw Full Bowls of Cereal Without Even Thinking of the Consequences.'"
5. Ezra Klein, The Washington Post
Ezra Klein, the media world's very own millennial wunderkind, put his objections to the article in easy-to-digest chart form:
(washingtonpost.com/Pew Research Center)
That looks awfully like the priorities past generations had. To many in the media, however, the 1 percent of millennials who think becoming famous is "one of the most important things in their lives" are the only ones that exist.
Disclosure: The author of this story is a millennial who used to write for TIME and is posting a selfie on Instagram at this very minute.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Stop making fun of philosophy and read some philosophy
- Sorry, we will not all be having sex with robots in the future
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How to live a long life, according to science
- Beware of Splenda: The backlash against artificial sugars
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Yes, the Federal Reserve is politicized — and that's a good thing
- 10 things you need to know today: October 30, 2014
Subscribe to the Week