Column: Blanket criticism of a generation: Easy, but inaccurate

Vivian Zhao, Editor in Chief, Editorial Editor & Columnist

A retort to Baby Boomers’ criticism of Millennials and Generation Z, “OK, Boomer” has transformed into a viral phrase, an equivalent refutation to “kids these days…” Its dismissive tone may not be the ideal approach, however, “OK, Boomer” rightfully reflects a frustration with unwarranted remarks about our generation. 

To fully understand our alleged hamartias, I researched and condensed the internet’s complaints into a short list of two: social media and the Peter Pan syndrome.

An opinion article published by Fox News was particularly bold in its claims: “These Peter and Patty Pans are so addicted to drugs like Facebook and Twitter that blow up their egos and make them into fake celebrities that they can feel pretty good for a long time,” the author wrote, generously adding, “even when their lives are going pretty badly.” 

Ironically, the article reached its audience through the internet, the very medium that makes Facebook and Twitter accessible. He or she evidently sent the piece to Fox knowing that the channel heavily utilizes social media.

One simple article has highlighted the issue provoking “OK, Boomer”: criticism upon convenience. 

Let’s entertain the notion that social media’s a drug and the broader implication that it is wholly detrimental. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have allowed users from across the world to connect. I use the latter to text friends who have dispersed across the country for college and would much rather receive an instantaneous response than wait three days for the mail. Through Facetime, a social networking app, my maternal grandfather is able to see my face more than once a year. I would be hesitant in likening that to a dosage of cocaine. 

Perhaps social media isn’t completely awful – and yes, moderation is key. The idea of “moderation,” however, is bound to vary by generation. A 60 year old, newly introduced to Facebook, will have an entirely different attitude toward it compared to a high school senior with a decade’s worth of Instagram experience. Simply because teens use social media more often than other generations does not mean they are addicted. I doubt that one is qualified to denounce social media use if he or she just learned to like a post. 

Then what about Peter Pan syndrome? The term refers to an adult’s inability to mature and is derived from the story of Peter Pan, who never grows up. Some refer to participation trophies as an example of a disconnect from reality – because optimally, only the strongest fifth-grade park district soccer team should be awarded medals – though I’d like to note that in elementary school I did not demand an award for participation, but was rather given one by an adult. In fact, very few of us were responsible for romanticizing participation: if you’d like to criticize that, please refer to Generation X.

Another argument accompanies participation awards – children (turned adults) live with their parents, even after college. 

The Fox News opinion writes that “men and women between the ages of 18 and 34 are now more likely to be living with their parents than living on their own or in any other living situation.” Before we sound an alarm, let’s examine potential reasons why. 

   In an article by the Pew Research Center three years later, we find that “Americans owed about $1.5 trillion in student loans at the end of March 2019, more than two times what they owed a decade earlier.” Perhaps it’s not laziness, but rather, being weighed down by debt. Consider the possibility that “kids these days” have it harder. Not that this is our fault – some of us haven’t even gone to college.

Blanket criticism of a generation is easy. It won’t be accurate. 

So please, take some time to understand. Our generation has its flaws, but it is no more flawed than the next. 

Questions, comments, or concerns? You can reach me @vczhaoCT on Twitter. And don’t worry: I’m not addicted.