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Millennials: The Worst, Most Entitled, Most Spoiled Generation in the History of Humankind?

People love to bag on millennials. But you'd be surprised how little debauchery and entitlement is going on.

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In part, that might be because parents remain a huge part of millennials’ lives well into adulthood. “Sex and the City,” a show that dealt with Gen-Xers, barely touched on a single protagonist’s parents. Miranda’s mother died, and the back of the head of Charlotte’s father seemed to appear at her wedding, but it’s hard to say whether Carrie Bradshaw even had parents. In “Girls,” a show about millennials, relationships with parents prove as important as romantic relationships. Entire episodes are dedicated to them.

Neil Howe notes that the trend of millennials living at home post-college was on the uptick even before the great meltdown of 2008. It’s not even particularly uncool anymore. At the Grammy Awards, the band Fun., famous for their song “We are Young,” thanked their parents “for letting us live at home for a very long time.”

And millennials are grateful for this support. They know their parents have invested a huge amount in them and, with that backing, comes a pressure not to screw up.

Greg Cohen, a 27-year-old working in real estate, says, “Most people I know have parents who are generally supportive of their kids financially or otherwise. They gave their kid a new car on their 16th birthday instead of buying themselves a new motorcycle. When kids get out into the real world, they realize how hard it is to actually make a buck. They really appreciate the generosity of their parents. Not wanting to disappoint them [comes with that]. I just don’t think parents 30 years ago gave as much of a shit about their kids, for whatever reason.”

Neil Howe agrees, and notes that millennials tend to like and trust authority figures in general. He remarks on a study wherein he talked to high school principals who recounted that if you wanted to punish a Gen-Xer, you told them, “If you keep this up, you’re going to go to the counselor!” Then they’d stop, outraged at the idea that they couldn’t take care of themselves. Millennials will be delighted to go to the counselor, because they think the counselor will make them happier and better adjusted.

No wonder I will immediately defer to the opinion of anyone older at a party.

Howe also notes that he conducted a study where millennials and Gen-Xers were asked how they would feel if their mother’s baking recipe was featured in a public forum, like a magazine. Gen-Xers largely replied “embarrassed.” Millennials overwhelmingly replied “proud.” Megan Zilis, a 29-year-old publicist, confirms, “I would take a screen shot of the article and post it on every social network I’m currently logged into. Which is all of them. And my mom makes the best cookies. From scratch! Topped with homemade frosting.”

We’re proud of our parents, and want to make them proud of us. That means that while we might not feel the same horror at living in our parents’ basement, we also really want to get a job.

Some of that trust in the older generation and authority figures might explain the tendency of well-educated millennials to gravitate toward the Occupy Wall Street movement (80 percent involved in the movement had a bachelor’s degree or higher). We weren’t just angry, we were shocked that the older generation wasn’t looking out for us the way we’d always trusted them to.

That doesn’t mean so much that we’re “entitled” as it means that we’re “trusting.” For very logical reasons, given our general upbringings. We’re trusting, and we’re pretty damn nice.

The emphasis on social media enhances those bonds. Keeping up with everyone we know all the time — on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram — means that millennials feel a tremendous sense of connection to everyone in their peer group. And no, they are not posting pictures of joyless orgies in their parents’ basement.

 
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