Millennials declare Twitter war on parents

It started as a bit of fun as the middle-aged lampooned their clueless children. Then yesterday came the fightback as the young skewered their parents’ hypocrisies. Time to call a truce?

‘Hand them a job application form.’

‘Talk to them.’

‘Turn off their autocorrect.’

‘Explain how we used to be social, before media.’

These, it seems, are ways to bamboozle today’s youth. This weekend, some Twitter users started mocking young adults, under the hashtag #HowToConfuseAMillennial.

An unofficial social media war was declared. Millennials soon flooded the hashtag with sarcastic messages, often accusing Generation X or baby boomers of hypocrisy.

‘Destroy the housing market, replace grad jobs with unpaid internships, tell them to buy a house,’ wrote Carl Kinsella — in a tweet shared 23,000 times. ‘Rant about how Everyone gets a trophy these days while sipping from your World’s Greatest Dad coffee mug,’ another popular message read. Some questioned the wisdom of using Twitter to attack its savviest users.

The row added to a long history of inter-generational tension. In the fifth century BCE, the philosopher Socrates said: ‘Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households.’ Similar complaints came from Roman poet Horace in 20 BCE and the Earl of Shaftesbury in 1843.

Signs suggest this has worsened in recent years. The political priorities of the young and old have increasingly diverged. Young people now wait longer to leave home and get jobs. They are often accused of narcissism, an attitude of entitlement and technology addiction. Some commentators have coined the term ‘Generation Snowflake’ to refer — in the words of author Claire Fox — to ‘a fragile, thin-skinned younger generation that cannot cope with conflicting views, let alone criticism’.

But some youngsters say their elders have left them a poor legacy. In the UK, a report this year suggested millennials are the first generation to be worse off than their parents. They increasingly require better qualifications to get professional jobs, but the average graduate now leaves a UK university with £44,000 worth of debt. And how, they ask, can they leave home when their elders have rapidly driven up house prices?

Innocence and experience

The hypocrisy of the middle-aged is the unforgivable part, says the youth camp. It really is unacceptable to preach a set of values and opinions while practising many of the vices that you are attacking. The philosopher William Hazlitt was right when he said that the only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy.

Totally missing the point, say the oldies. A far wiser man was the 17th century Parisian, La Rochefoucauld. When he said that hypocrisy is the tribute which vice pays to virtue, he recognised that people often dislike the way they behave and wish those whom they love to take a different and better path.

You Decide

  1. Do you consider the advice — or mockery — of older people worth listening to?
  2. Can hypocritical advice from your elders be justified?

Activities

  1. Re-write this article twice, in your own words: first from the point of view of an older person, and secondly from a younger one. Use no more than 150 words each time.
  2. Work in groups of four. Prepare and act out a two-minute sketch exploring the themes raised in this article.

Some People Say...

“Do as I say, not as I do.”

What do you think?

Q & A

I am not a millennial. Is this any more than a squabble between people older than me?
The ‘millennial’ tag is just a vague term; it is often used to describe young adults in general. The differences between generations are very arbitrary — two people born days apart could technically be considered members of different generations. The trend here is similar to timeless disputes between the old and the young, making it relevant to you and your parents.
But won’t things be different for my generation?
If you were born after 2000, you are technically in ‘Generation Z’. Many of the underlying causes for the concerns raised here seem likely to continue. But each generation also commonly has different ideas to the one before — so you are likely to face new opportunities, and problems.

Word Watch

Millennials
The US census bureau says millenials were born between 1982 and 2000.
Generation X
Those born between the early 1960s and early 1980s.
Baby boomers
Those born between 1946 and the early 1960s.
Horace
He said his generation was ‘more worthless’ than the one before and ‘so in our turn, we shall give the world a progeny more corrupt’.
Shaftesbury
He said ‘the morals of children are tenfold worse than formerly’.
Diverged
Americans under 30 voted overwhelmingly for Bernie Sanders in the US presidential primaries; older voters chose Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. The UK’s EU referendum also sharply divided young from old.
Leave home
The UK’s Office for National Statistics says 3.3m 20- to 34-year-olds lived with their parents in 2015.
Entitlement
In a poll for Duke University and CFO magazine, 46% of America’s chief financial officers made this criticism of millennials.
Report
By left-leaning think tank the Resolution Foundation.
£44,000
According to the Sutton Trust.
House prices
In 1995 houses in London cost 4.4 times the average salary; that figure rose to 12.2 by 2015.

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