So, I'm reading this novel about young millionaire millennials and their gazillion-dollar tech startups. The characters are shallow, the book is slow and I'm just about ready to chuck it when something finally happens. The protagonist—a 28-year-old vaguely attractive, slippery, money-obsessed CEO of a hot new startup—texts a female employee a photo of his dick. This kicks off the story: a dick pic to a female employee.
Worried my response could be seen as unhip, I transport myself back to the 1980s, when I was their age and try to conjure up the shock and repulsion I'd experience if I received a photo of my boss's penis. In the '80s, if your boss sent you a dick pic, you could rest assured he was in the middle of a whopping psychotic episode. Yet, the four young people who see this pic in 2017 are underwhelmed at best. In fact, they radiate the sort of ennui seen only in classic French films where, cigarettes dangling from their lips, everyone shrugs and murmurs, "C'est la vie." That's life. We've seen it all. Nothing surprises us anymore.
Has popular culture reached an all-time low?
Of course it has. But not because of dick pics and vile, racist internet rants by trolls with superhero icons, or even fake news and the soulless subhumans behind it—but because it's supposed to. See the pattern here? An older generation shocked and outraged at a profligate younger generation? Relax. This has been happening since the beginning of time.
Who said it: The Washington Post or Socrates?
"The younger generation is lazy, rude, self-centered and obnoxious; they have bad manners and disrespect their elders."
Thousands of years ago, Socrates (469-399 B.C.) dissed the youth of Athens; and the chances you've recently harbored unkind thoughts towards your millennial son, daughter, co-worker, boss (my condolences) are pretty high. Am I right? (See what I did here? A millennial would have used "amirite.")
My point is this: Do you want to be that crotchety morally superior "get off my lawn" old person or do you want to be the Dalai Lama?
Hands down, you want to be the Dalai Lama. Look at that dog-eared Free Tibet bumper sticker hanging off the back of your Volvo. But if you can't quite make the leap to aping the highest-ranking Buddhist, you must, at the very least, calm the freak down and find some peace in your old age. Going to your grave ranting about rude, lazy, selfish, self-centered, phone-obsessed, selfie-taking, Instagram junkies and the millennials win.
I suggest you look at it like this:
THEY SAID BAD STUFF ABOUT US AND WE TURNED OUT OK. (SORT OF.)
After being accused of sloth, insolence, egotism, greed and depravity by our parents—the silent majority—the boomers actually contributed a lot to society. OK, there is that pesky 14-trillion-dollar debt we created and threw on millennial shoulders and if they had any interest in politics they'd have good reason to hate us. But as greedy as our generation was, our contributions moved society forward. We marched for the greater good, fought bogus wars, passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Our leaders—John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.— inspired a whole generation to change the way America is governed. The sexual revolution and the pill paved the way for gay rights by showing people sex for enjoyment and not just procreation was OK. And don't forget the music. Ah, the music—The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Beach Boys—the list is endless and even millennials like it. Have you been to Trader Joe's lately? I rest my case.
WE SAY BAD STUFF ABOUT THEM BUT THEY HAVE THEIR GOOD POINTS, TOO.
The millennial generation is the largest and most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet and also the most highly educated. They're less into stuff and more optimistic about the future. They donate more time and money to good causes and are highly creative. This group includes: Malala Yousafzai (educational activist who was brutally attacked for going to school when she was 15 and survived), Lena Dunham (American filmmaker and director/writer/actress on the HBO show "Girls"), Beyoncé (if you don't know who Beyoncé is, you could already be dead), Adele (see Beyoncé), Mark Zuckerberg (creator of Facebook), Jennifer Lawrence (outspoken Academy Award-winning actress) and a bunch of tech entrepreneurs (the creators of Tumblr, Pinterest, Quora, Mashable, Instagram, Airbnb, Groupon ... which, admit it, you love). There are many, many more but you get the idea.
Softening? If not, how about this: Make it your personal quest to preserve the social niceties that have gone the way of shoulder pads and practice them with your grumpy boomer friends. Keep bringing that nice bottle of wine to dinner parties; write those thank-you notes; show up where and when you say you will; make eye contact with the person you're talking to; don't use your phone in restaurants or movie theaters, and don't take pics of your outer genitalia and send them to your employees or co-workers.
But if you must, use Snapchat. The image disappears in three seconds. ;)