Last week, our nation’s capital played host to the world’s first “Millennial Week.” When I first heard about this, I assumed it would involve contests about who could take the best selfie and public readings of Buzzfeed lists. I have to admit that I was somewhat shocked (and pleasantly surprised) to visit the event’s website and learn that Millennial Week was actually a lot of networking events, an awards ceremony, and various other things celebrating the accomplishments of ours, the most maligned generation.
Maybe this isn’t so bad, I thought. Maybe this is showing the world that our generation isn’t so self-absorbed and somewhat useless.
I can see why people feel the need to host an event like this, to show that “Millennial” is more than a synonym for “entitled brat living off of their parents.” I once went to a work-related event that claimed to be about enhancing intergenerational communication and actually turned out to be a bunch of Gen X-ers talking about how awesome they were and complaining that Millennials were too busy texting to actually do any work. Events like Millennial Week strive to prove that isn’t the case. Looking over the list of finalists for the “Millennial Awards,” you see that our generation is making a difference in politics, business, and philanthropy (though we also like to blog about brunch).
The problem for me occurred when I read the Millennial Week “About” section, which includes this quote: “Millennial Week DC embodies what the world has come to fear and love of Generation Y. ” It is exactly that. It’s Millennials trying to prove their worth, but doing so in the most Millennial way possible, by patting themselves on the back. What exactly have we done to deserve a week? I haven’t seen any other generations feel the need for one. We don’t have themed events for other generations, like “Baby Boomer Week” or “Gen X Day.” Are we really so self-important that we think we can just declare a week for ourselves?Is this just playing into the stereotype that we need a trophy for everything, even if it’s just showing up? Or is the point that as Millennials, we’re so cutting edge that we don’t need to wait for the establishment to recognize our accomplishments, we can just start recognizing them ourselves? I certainly don’t dispute that our generation is making a difference, I just worry that highlighting our achievements in this way just plays into why older generations are so eager to criticize us.
I honestly don’t know the answer to the question posed in the title of this article. Is an event like this proving our worth, or just proving us to be excessively self-indulgent? And if it’s the latter, is this a problem, or just the new normal? Is our generation really more self-centered than any of the previous ones, or are we just the first with the technology to highlight it? Maybe other generations would have had their own weeks, but lacked the ability to easily organize events via a few tweets and some Facebook posts.
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