Young People

10.15.12

Generation Meme

The New Republic enters the fray on the most important discussion of all time: Why do young people seem so listless?

[L]istening to Koenig explain the roots of her anguish is to be reminded of just how particular her reality is. “My dream is to survive doing what I’d like to think I’m good at, what I enjoy doing,” Koenig said. “I don’t think I’m being entitled to desire employment in the field I spent so much time and money training for,” she added. “But the fact that it’s next to impossible to stay alive is so frustrating. ... My education was $200,000 and I have a BFA [Bachelor of Fine Arts], and what does that mean?”

Even the book Twentysomething falls into this trap, despite all its gestures toward a generational birds-eye view. Twentysomething is massive in scope. It roams through chapters on marriage and fertility and youth psychology and sociology and midlife crises and quarter-life crises and student debt. And yet it ultimately feels like social media brought to bear as a research method, the result of flinging an idea at your personal network and waiting for supportive comments to cluster around it. The Henigs see this charge coming, and try to preempt it, noting that its interview subjects were chosen not by employing any “scientific method” but by conducting “a casual survey among friends of friends.”

Notice that the words "student debt" appear exactly once in the entire article. This was a lengthy(ish) piece making fun of twentysomethings who feel stuck in the world, yet fails to address the facts that 1) students are spending a fortune (usually borrowed) for a piece of paper that was promised to improve their lives; and 2) that twentysomethings are coming of age in the least optimistic economic climate since our grandparents. So yes, there might be a reason (or $200,000 of them) why a lot of twentysomethings don't want to grow up.

Throw in the references to slacker bohemians who could only exist (and survive) in expensive urban enclaves thanks to doting parents, clever young people who have managed to capitalize off the newfound internet fame that comes with public angst, and Lena Dunham, and you've got a clickable #SlatePitch. Now, the story mentions that these people are nothing new, so that's nice. (Although if I were writing it, I'd probably scrap the story when that came to light.)

I get where the author is coming from. Some of the most famous people in my generation are popular because they are lovable losers. But that speaks for very few of us.

And for what it's worth, it's entirely possible to have a Tumblr, Twitter, and a career.