Malaysiakini Letter

The misunderstood millennials

Mohamed Syafiq Mohamed Khalid

LETTER | Millennials. A bunch of narcissistic, overconfident, and demanding bunch of people. Instant gratification is their game, and when the world doesn’t fall in accordance to their expectations they start to whine - or that’s how the media likes to portray my generation.

Born in the year 1986, I generally identify myself as those who fall within the millennial generation cohort. There has been much discourse against my generation, particularly by those born in between Generation X and the Baby Boomers era. 

After spending the past year mingling with Baby Boomers, I think I can somewhat understand why my generation is perceived in that manner. I believe that my generation is just simply misunderstood. To understand this “generation gap”, we need to relook into the environment in which Baby Boomers grew up in.

Tertiary education back then was seen as a ticket out of poverty. Graduates of higher institutions of learning were held in high regard, equipped with knowledge and tenacity to solve problems. The closure of World War II brought with it opportunities for economic growth through reconstruction. Technological innovation assimilated into war machines eventually made its way into commercial industries post-war, making life easier. 

Through sheer hard work and determination, one could succeed in this world – where the definition of success is defined mostly by your ability to survive and provide for your family. The ratio of prices of houses and cars to your income was relatively reasonable. Mid-life crises actually occurred when you were in your 40s.

Fast forward several decades later.

Tertiary education is now seen as mandatory and does not guarantee the holder a way out of poverty – in fact, it might actually land you in poverty. We now churn out graduates at the same rate as a manufacturer of soft drinks and they are only capable of solving problems on paper. Millennials grew up in a period of peace, without the need for reconstruction – we are just faced with major economic recessions. We grew up in an era of steroid-fueled technological progress, making our lives more complicated. 

Hard work and determination alone does not guarantee our survival. Success is a term given to those who are able to score a five figure paying job. The ratio of the prices of houses and cars to our income is equivalent to a lifetime of servitude to banks. Mid-life crises for millennials happen to those who have yet to graduate.

Simply put, millennials grew up in a more volatile, uncertain and charged environment. What I find ironic is that millennials are a direct outcome of what Baby Boomers produced. As a matter of fact, the environment the Millennials are presently in was also greatly influenced by the working Baby Boomers.

It is not my intention to point fingers or to highlight faults. Rather, I am merely emphasising that the difference in perception is driven by external circumstances. Much to my chagrin, a significant number of Baby Boomers I have been socialising with noted that most millennials lack empathy and problem-solving skills due to an over-reliance on technology as a communication platform and source of information. 

The reduction of human interaction through text messages has resulted in a generation which devalues human relations. Anonymity on the Internet provides a platform for them to devoid themselves of responsibility of their actions and words. The ubiquity and accessibility of the Internet, along with what it has to offer promotes an instant gratification culture. Overnight unicorns and constant technological changes force them to change their perspectives on matters constantly. 

Baby Boomers needs to understand that this is the reality surrounding millennials and rather than blindly shunning them – perhaps Boomers may want to view us as simply misunderstood.

I believe that millennials should also understand that the world is only as complicated as you make it out to be. Solutions to certain issues should be drawn out with guidance from the elders rather than relying solely on your peers. Progress and development are something which naturally occurs over time – like planting a tree rather than something which can be artificially manipulated. 

The ability to be anonymous does not grant you the right to criticise without repercussions. There are things that we, as millennials will have control over eventually and we will be setting the trend for those who would also ultimately take over the wheel from us.

I do not believe that any particular generation is always “correct” about their views on life – it’s more of a matter of perspective. What I can agree upon is no one would win if both parties continue to find fault rather than attempting to understand each other. Perhaps both parties should reach out to each other more often rather than congregating among their peers. 

I came to realize that there is much wisdom that I can draw from the elder crowds and found our sessions to be rather entertaining and fulfilling. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, "Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art".

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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