Those who criticise the millennial generation forget those who raised it. Sinek

From generation to generation, there seems to be a trend whereby the past is subjectively adjudged to be better than the present. Most older people would then passionately defend their generation as the best thing that ever happened to humanity.

Currently, those persons aged about 60 years old and above appear to be revelling in that euphoric stage. Everything is couched in terms of “back in the day, during our time – schools were functional, feeding was free, the public service was excellent, … we had rivers flowing with milk and honey”. One would rarely hear the other side of the story.

Well, since they are our elders, let us indulge them in their nostalgia and this retelling of their history. Their assessment of the actions of later generations – the immediate one being my generation – is usually full of reminisce. Nevertheless, they never seem able to tell us how it was that they failed to transfer what they received from their forebears to the next – my generation.

For categorization, their generation are the Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964. They are currently in the age group between 57 and 75 years old. The consensus is that with increased educational and financial opportunities they enjoyed compared to previous generations, they are mostly confident, independent, self-reliant, goal-oriented, dedicated, and career-focused. You will notice that most of those in that generation were/are decent, urbane and strove to make a difference in whatever they did.

Again, they, too, mostly like their forebears, i.e., those born before the end of the 2nd World War, did not pass down much to ensure sustainable transfer of requisite capacities across different endeavours of life. There was a general expectation for everyone to somehow become independent, blissfully forgetting that their generation were the last that were spoon-fed.

I belong to the next generation, popularly referred to as Generation X. We are the ones born between 1965 and 1979 and currently in the age bracket between 41 and 56 years old. My bosses think that we are worse – perhaps even worse off? – than those of their generation, the Baby Boomers.

Anyway, according to a Pew Research, Gen Xers tend to be flexible and are adaptable; they value diversity, creative thinking and are amenable to change. They are self-sufficient, resourceful and individualistic since they have been accustomed to caring for themselves before adulthood. They value freedom and responsibility, and they do try to overcome challenges on their own.

However, consistent with the natural flow of life, my generation is looking to expire in about twenty years from now. Ours would then be supplanted by – and give way to – the current generation of Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996. They are currently between 25 and 40 years old. And then there is Generation Z – those who were born between 1997 and 2012.

However, there has never been so much anxiety and fear about the future, like we are presently witnessing. And most of it is caused by a generational shift in terms of attitude, outlook, and disposition to the very issues that matter. However one views it, we are at a moment whereby there is shared apprehension about an uncertain future, given that the country is poised to be handed over to Millennials – or something to that effect. Time Magazine edition of May 2013 has dubbed them as “The Me Me Me Generation”.

Nigeria is currently going through turbulent times. There is a consensus that we need to have in place, a capable generation ready to take over the helm of affairs across (especially) the public sector as well, in the private sector. Many pieces of research have surveyed, aggregated, and examined the opinions and attitudes of millennials across a spectrum of issues. The preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that the Millenial generation is highly educated, self-confident, technologically savvy and ambitious. Some of the outcomes indicated that this particular generation had been nurtured and pampered by parents who didn’t want to make the mistakes of the previous generation.

The Time Edition of May 2013 therefore summarises that Millenials are lazy and entitled narcissists. Time Magazine’s position draws heavily from the work of Simon Sinek, a world reknown author and researcher. Sinek has argued that Millennials are “narcissistic, self-interested, unfocused, lazy,” and, most of all, “entitled.”

Part of the problem is that Millenials have an elevated familiarity with mobile devices, high-speed internet and access to shark-infested social media. Simon further argued that they usually have a self-centred work ethic and have not been raised in a way that demands them to exceed expectations. They are rushing to get over with the smallest of tasks with minimal (if any) zeal for efficiency and/or a vigorous pursuit of perfection. Due to globalization, their shared features in nearly every part of the world are similar.  And these findings are not problems limited to just rich kids: Millennials from poor backgrounds have been documented to exhibit even higher rates of obtuse materialism, narcissism and technology addiction.

So, then, there is a genuine need for us all to be worried.

Permit me to focus attention on those Millenials within the public sector. These are persons currently on grade levels 7 to 13, and they are to be found in almost every one of our public institutions.

In the nearest future, they will be entrusted and vested with authority to oversee our security, economy, and politics and formulate policies. In about 20 years, there will be directors and heads of agencies. Most of them seem to have, needlessly, complicated views about life. This is partly attributable to their penchant for high consumption of majorly useless and pointless information of manifest doubtful value, from social media.

Research by Marc Prensky showed that those who used social media and decided to quit, harbour the similar withdrawal symptoms of a drug addict who quit their stimulants. Now, witness how during meetings, it is usually the Millenial’s phone that will ring, even where and when the housekeeping rule would have dictated otherwise. They are the ones who would write everything in their Instagram imagination without any scruples. They will carelessly write official letters using lingo that is straight off an SMS chat conversation. They have the most egregious apathy for spell checking. Rather than to painstakingly exercise their mental faculties and giftings when faced with any problem requiring a solution, they’d rather dive under the soft and easy cover of Google for solutions. Of course, they have no concern for consequences. In their world, neither achievement nor failure matters.

One of the established adverse effects arising from excessive use of social media, is the impairment of cognitive functions. Once Google is unable to supply the quick answers, many Millenials have been known to struggle to think of solutions – which is a reflection of poor cognitive performance.

Research by Ohio State University also suggested that addictive social media use and consumption are the reason most millennials have attention and short-term memory – shown in heightened attention-deficit-symptoms. This is usually accompanied by social isolation, impaired brain development and disrupted sleep. Also, the incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for their generation than 65 or older. Twenge, a psychology professor, writes in “The Narcissism Epidemic” that when they try to boost self-esteem, they accidentally boost narcissism instead.

And these same tendencies and deficiencies as described above are in full display by Millenials daily in our public governance space. The implications are dire, as they are indeed troubling. Which leaves a question that then arises: what will Nigerian Millenials do when they take over the country?

Umar Yakubu is with the Centre for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity Watch. Twitter @umaryakubu


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