Who doesn’t love an online quiz? I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t like online quizzes, except arguable (noted) curmudgeon and L Mag culture editor, Henry Stewart. But you know who really loves quizzes? Lazy millennials. Especially when the quiz is about being a lazy millennial. And, also, these same lazy millennials love reading about themselves because “the incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that’s now 65 or older, according to the National Institutes of Health.” I got that quote from Joel Stein’s article for Time, titled, “The Me Me Me Generation.” That’s the only quote I’ve got because the article is behind a paywall and I refuse to pay even a penny to any institution that publishes Joel Stein. We all have standards. Even lazy millennials.
But, luckily for those of us who don’t want to read Stein but do want to know if he would categorize us all as lazy millennials, there’s a quiz on Time’s site which helps you to answer the question, “How Millennial Are You?” The quiz questions such things as whether or not “you have taken a selfie while waiting in line for cupcakes” and whether “you can text while doing a sun salutation.” Basically, as one commenter so aptly put it, “This is a bad quiz and you should feel bad about yourselves.” This is true! It is a bad quiz. It is not even slightly serious, which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with being satirical. But it also mocks serious issues that millennials face by, in the midst of frivolous questions like whether or not you know the theme to “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” wondering whether or not “you think paying your own rent is overrated.” I mean, ha ha. Millennials can’t afford to pay rent because they don’t have jobs and because they have crippling student loans to repay and because they came of age during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Ha ha. Paying rent is overrated. Good one, Time Magazine.
But, back to the actual article, over on Flavorpill, Tom Hawking tears apart Stein’s piece, calling it out for what it is: “professionally trollish…unmitigated horseshit.” Hawking tears apart Stein’s article point by point (it is truly an epic takedown that everyone should read in full) even comparing what Stein did to “the New York Times’ endless hipster trend pieces, giving the sense of someone poking a cute animal at the zoo with a stick, out of a mixture of curiosity and fear.” Which, perfection!
There’s just one more thing that I’d like to point out though, which is that while Hawking is right in criticizing Stein for falling into the cliché wherein society “blam[es] children for the sins of their parents”—a cliché that Stein acknowledges, but doesn’t escape, by writing, “I’m about to do what old people have done throughout history: call those younger than me lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow”—what Stein is doing is not really a generational shifting of blame. Joel Stein is, at age 41, a generation removed from the millennials, yes, but he is not of the generation that could be a parent to millennials. Stein’s whining and complaining isn’t based so much on the annoyance that a generation who is truly removed and detached from youth might feel.
His annoyance is based on two other distinct and troubling things. One of those is the inclination to troll for page views, which, is not a generational thing so much as an industry thing, and is also, obviously not limited to millennials. If anything, that is just part of the system that was put in place by people of Stein’s generation, a system that promotes all things faddish i.e. cupcakes, in order to profit off the same people who they deride for buying into the system. The second thing, though, is something that Hawking points out in the Flavorpill takedown. Stein, for all his bloviating, admits that he once auditioned for a reality show (The Real World: London) and also that he “know[s his] number of Twitter followers far better than [his] car’s odometer” and that he is hated by his co-workers for “cozying up to the editor” at Time. In other words, all the disastrous behaviors that Stein spots in millennials are also (gasp!) part of Stein himself. By writing so disparagingly about millennials and the terrible qualities that they possess as a means of therapeutically working through his own narcissistic tendencies, Stein has taken a serious topic (the state of our nation’s youth) and reduced it into a rambling essay about his own neediness and insecurities. So, no. I’m not paying five dollars to Time to read that. I don’t have that extra five bucks anyway, because I need to pay my own rent.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen