Here's What Gen Zers and Millennials Really Think About Previous Generations
The finger-wagging goes both ways.
Older generations are pretty sure they have millennials and Gen Zers figured out. They're "entitled," "lazy," and unwilling to "pay their dues." Basically, they're just screen-hypnotized social media zombies. Baby boomers spend so much time trying to dissect "kids today" that they never really pause to wonder what all those young whipper-snappers think of them.
But that's important because, for better or worse, these people are their children or grandchildren. So, it's time to face reality and find out what millennials and Gen Zers actually think about older generations.
They've ruined the economy.
Millennial Wall Street Journal columnist Joseph Sternberg was very specific about who his generation should blame for their financial woes. It was right there in the subtitle of his book, The Theft of a Decade: How the Baby Boomers Stole the Millennials' Economic Future. As he told Vox: "We suffered from the educational debt phenomenon because when we couldn't find jobs, a lot of us went to college. Or we got graduate degrees. Our boomer parents encouraged us to fund a lot of that with debt, on the premise that it would eventually pay off in the job market. But that was clearly wrong, and we're paying the price for it."
That's not just speculation. The Motley Fool, a financial advice site, predicted that boomers could exhaust Social Security benefits anywhere from 20 to 25 percent by the year 2034, right around the time Gen Xers start retiring. That means, by the time millennials and Gen Zers are ready to give up the rat race, there won't be much left (if anything) for their golden years.
And their opinions about student debt are woefully out of date
Millennials and Gen Zers may not always have the best approach—a la Mark Zurick who tweeted about boomers who think "we shouldn't have student loan forgiveness cuz they 'worked hard' to pay off their loans. Shut up, Susan, your tuition was $300 a year and you could pay it off working three shifts at Subway."
Rude? Absolutely. But the larger point is valid. The cost of college hasn't just gone up over the past half-century, just one year at a public university costs a staggering 3,700 percent more than it did in 1964, according a 2019 GoBankingRates analysis.
Natalie, a 19-year-old UCLA student, broke it down on Tumblr with a side-by-side comparison of what both generations—the younger and the older—have had to contend with to even consider a higher education.
Annual tuition for Yale, 1970: $2,550
Annual tuition for Yale, 2014: $45,800
Minimum Wage, 1970: $1.45
Minimum Wage, 2014: $7.25
Daily hours at minimum wage needed to pay for tuition in 1970: 4.8
Daily hours at minimum wage needed to pay for tuition in 2014: 17.3
The numbers speak for themselves!
They have way too much control over politics.
According to a 2018 Axios/SurveyMonkey poll, 51 percent of millennials are pretty sure that boomers are making things worse for their generation. And, whether it's term limits for members of Congress or just the suggestion that more young people get out and vote, most millennials surveyed agreed that becoming more involved in politics was the only way their generation would better themselves.
It's an opinion you'll find widely shared on Twitter, as well. "These boomer politicians need to step away and let the Gen Xers and millennials clean up their mess," one user remarked. Some political critics have argued that 2020 could very well be the year when millennials and Gen Zers finally become a political force to be reckoned with. "Our day will come," writes political columnist Sternberg. "When it does, we owe it to ourselves to understand fully what went wrong in the past decade, so that we can make better choices than our parents did."
They're killing the planet.
Climate change is inarguably the biggest threat to the future of humanity. Every day, we see headlines like "Past generations created a climate crisis for millennials and Generation Z." And when you look at the data, it's hard to argue. According to a 2019 analysis by CarbonBrief, boomers used up so much carbon that future generations will have a lifetime carbon budget nearly eight times lower than their grandparents if they want to avoid catastrophe.
Millennials and Gen Zers are increasingly frustrated by not only their current and future situations, but by older generations' lack of acknowledgement of their part in the problem. One Twitter user wrote, "My dad is a loud climate change denier but also won't retire in south Florida cuz 'it's going to sink into the ocean' lol baby boomers are fun." And a Tumblr user shared this hypothetical conversation:
"ADULT POLITICIANS: teenagers shouldn't vote because the part of their brain that deals with prioritizing long-term goals over immediate satisfaction isn't fully developed
TEENAGERS: please stop destroying the planet
ADULT POLITICIANS: but the planet won't be unlivable for decades and I want oil money now."
They blame younger generations for destroying the industries they love.
Boomers tend to blame younger generations for killing off industries, everything from cereal to diamonds to motorcycles. Or as one young person summed it up on Twitter, "Baby boomer: millennials are killing… *spins wheel* the nectarine industry!"
One particular point of contention has been department stores, like Sears, Kmart, and Macy's. They've been hemorrhaging money, losing billions in sales, and increasingly shutting their doors for good. When a recent ABC News story wondered, "Is it because of millennials?" a disgruntled Twitter user responded: "Baby boomers killed the polar bears but right right right, my deepest apologies to J.C. Penney."
They're a big part of the fake news epidemic.
In a Reddit thread where millennials aired their grievances about boomers and Gen Xers, user @TheNekoMatta asked, "Why it is that most of the older generation (and some millennials) can have something called a cellphone in their pocket and decide to never take a minute to fact check something that sounds suspicious?" The truth is, fake news is a real problem, and older generations are not just the most susceptible to believing it but also, to sharing it.
A 2019 study published in the journal Science Advances found that people over the age of 65 were seven times more likely than their younger counterparts to distribute false or misleading stories on social media sites. So, if a baby boomer shares a link to a controversial "news" story on their Facebook page, it's a pretty good bet that they didn't do a Google search first to make sure the information was accurate.
And they should spend more time on the internet.
Boomers and Gen Xers sure do love to tell younger generations that the internet is rotting their brains. But a 2008 study out of the University of California, Los Angeles, discovered that searching the internet can help to stimulate and possibly even improve brain function, especially among "middle-aged and older adults."
So, it may be that older generations are not spending nearly enough time online. Some Gen Xers and baby boomers get so easily confused by the internet and how to use it that they often treat it like a completely foreign entity. "I love baby boomers who say 'kids don't even know how to write cursive' in a negative way," Gen Zer Zach Wallen wrote on Twitter. "Like, 'Ok grandma, you can't even turn your laptop on without getting 6 viruses and wiring half your retirement money to a Nigerian Prince.'" An unfair generalization? Sure. But it's funny (and a little bit true).
They're the worst bosses (and coworkers).
Younger employees get the most criticism for being difficult at work. But a 2011 workplace survey found the exact opposite may be true after polling 774 workers across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in Australia. The researchers found that four out of five baby boomers don't even want to work with other boomers because they're so difficult in the workplace. "Boomers are going to have to reinvent themselves so that their own generation, and the other generations following, will be able to willingly work for them," said Adrian Goldsmith, who led the survey.
Millennials and Gen Zers, for the most part, have a pretty good sense of humor about their frustrating colleagues. One Los Angeles Times writer offered a tongue-in-cheek guide to dealing with boomers at work, including tidbits like: "Older colleagues may drop comments such as, 'I have children your age!' Under no circumstance should you point out that you have parents their age. Just smile and don't stop smiling for the duration of your employment."
They over-romanticize their past.
Hindsight is not always 20/20, especially among boomers and Gen Xers. The older they get, the more they seem to look at their respective youths with rose-colored glasses.
"It's so sad how today's generation of kids don't even go outside anymore (because) they're addicted to smartphones," wrote one Twitter user, impersonating older generations. "What happened to the days when kids actually left the house to gather wild plants or do agonizing manual labor in textile mills until they died of scarlet fever at age 12?"
Self-professed millennial Caroline McCarthy went after Gen Xers in a story for Spectator called "Spare me, Generation X: you're not that special." In the article, she schooled the so-called slacker generation by reminding them that bragging about landlines and how you found your first apartment in a classified ad in the back of an alt-weekly is "the Gen X equivalent of telling the kiddos that you used to walk through the snow to get to school every day. (Uphill, both ways!)"
They ruined the housing market.
As Twitter user Talia F E pointed out, "If I had a dollar for every time a baby boomer complained about my generation, I'd have enough money to buy a house in the market they ruined." It may sound like sour grapes, but the 2017 Housing Shortage Study from Realtor.com found that 85 percent of boomers don't plan to sell their homes within the next year. "As a growing population of boomers decide to stay put so are approximately 33 million properties, many of which are urban condos or suburban single-family homes—the most popular choices for millennials," the researchers note.
"Boomers indeed hold the key to those homes the market desperately needs," Realtor.com's chief economist, Danielle Hale, told Housing Wire.
They assume all younger people are lazy and have no work ethic.
Nothing irritates a millennial or Gen Zer more than being dismissed with a cultural stereotype—like a "supposed" lack of work ethic. Even former President Barack Obama took aim at younger generations for not having enough ambition. "You're competing against young people in Beijing and Bangalore," he said in a 2012 speech to the National Urban League. "They're not hanging out. They're not getting over. They're not playing video games. They're not watching Real Housewives. I'm just saying. It's a two-way street. You've got to earn success."
Mark Lurie, the CEO of a company where he's "worked extensively with millennials," thinks the problem is a basic misunderstanding. Boomers are used to a system where hard work is rewarded with raises and promotions, and if you stay long enough, a pension and a 401K. That's not the same world that millennials inherited.
"Employment security and long-term investment no longer exist in the modern working world," Lurie wrote on Quora. "Millennials expect to be fired or let go regularly, so they want work that is directly in line with their own career equity, which are the skills and experiences that help them improve their career prospects. They know their time is limited, so they don't invest in doing things outside their own path."
They think millennials and Gen Zers are the ones who get easily triggered.
Boomers and Gen Xers like to throw around words like "snowflake" when dismissing younger generations for their supposed thin skins and emotional fragility. But millennials and Gen Zers think this is an example of the pot calling the kettle black. "If there's a generation that truly is 'Generation Snowflake', you'd be hard-pushed to find anybody who fits the box quite as well as baby boomers," millennial author Chris Ward wrote on Medium. "Baby boomers have made being upset about things an art."
In 2018, Twitter user Matt Dawood drew attention to a Wall Street Journal story about boomers being offended by the words "elderly" and "old." "I see why they're called BABY boomers," he snarked.
They're not as funny as they think they are.
Granted, it'd be an unfair generalization to claim that everyone in older generations is humor-deprived. But so much of what boomers and Gen Xers find hilarious just doesn't do anything for millennials and Gen Zers. Take Jerry Seinfeld, for instance. He's beloved by literally everyone over the age of 50, but as one Twitter user remarked, he "reinforces millennial suspicion that boomer culture is overrated." Then there's Saturday Night Live, which Vulture's Dave Schilling (fairly or not) dismissed as "deeply rooted in white baby-boomer ideas of what is funny."
Of course, boomers like to say the same of young people. Millennials and Gen Zers have no sense of humor, they insist. Responding to that criticism, one young Twitter user shot back, "Our entire generation laughs at… internet memes all day long—we just don't like racist jokes."
They're obsessed with cars.
As a recent report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group indicates, younger generations just aren't as interested in driving as previous generations, preferring public transportation and alternative options, like biking or good ole walking. "I think the trend or hype of owning cool cars is less of a thing than it was for earlier generations," said insurance expert Adam Johnson in an interview with Forbes. "Many young people today have other priorities, like traveling or paying off debt."
But boomers? Yeah, they still love their cars—and millennials and Gen Zers have noticed. As one Twitter user noted, "You know boomers had it good because their go-to midlife crisis move was buying an expensive car." Or, as another aptly summed it up: "Baby boomers are so materialistic. To them you [have] made [it] in life if you have nice cars and a house. But us millennials appreciate life more. Most of us would rather spend on new experiences, hobbies, and things that we love and [are] passionate about."
They might want to slow it down with the booze.
Younger generations always get the blame for binge-drinking and having an abusive relationship with alcohol. But as it turns out, it's really the older generations that may need to reconsider that second (or third or fourth) glass of wine. A 2019 study conducted at New York University's School of Medicine found that one in 10 adults over 65 are drinking excessively, defined as five or more alcoholic beverages every day.
Here's how one Twitter user portrayed the finger-wagging about drinking:
"Boomers: millennials are destroying the world with their partying and depravity!
Boomers: millennials are NO FUN, relax and get laid you joyless puritans"
They refuse to believe millennials don't want their old stuff.
You know that Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, where the planet's top organizational guru directs viewers to get rid of anything that doesn't "spark joy"? Well, the old furniture and silverware and "good china" being foisted on millennials by their parents and grandparents definitely doesn't spark joy.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Stephanie Kenyon, owner of Sloans & Kenyon Auctioneers and Appraisers in Chevy Chase, Maryland, delivered this harsh reality: "Hardly a day goes by that we don't get calls from people who want to sell a big dining room set or bedroom suite because nobody in the family wants it," she said. "Millennials don't want brown furniture, rocking chairs, or silver-plated tea sets. Millennials don't polish silver."
They act like younger generations invented bad choices.
It's true, millennials and Gen Zers are doing some pretty stupid things in the name of online peer pressure. They've eaten laundry detergent pods and chugged gallons of milk, took part in choking challenges, and attempted to walk out of moving cars (because they saw it in a Drake music video). Dumb choices, we agree. But it's also hypocritical for any older generation to point their fingers, as if younger generations are the first to do insane things for sport.
In the 1930s, high school and college kids were swallowing entire goldfish, and that was a fad that got its start at Harvard, of all places. And in the 1950s, students were cramming themselves into a single phone booth to see how many bodies could fit. Then, in 1964, a group of students in Yorkshire, England, decided to try to set a record for the most people on one bed. The 16-year-old on the bottom of the 50-person pile up famously said "never again."
Yes, no single generation has cornered the market on terrible ideas, and it doesn't even end as you grow up. As Twitter user Nikki Reimer joked, "Legit just left an art gallery full of boomers trying to peer pressure me into huffing helium. #LifeWithBoomers #JustSayNo." And for how we're all actually more alike than we thought, here are 20 "Millennial Problems" That Actually Apply to Everyone.
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