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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

An identity beyond the Internet

<ir="ltr">Countless times this conversation has happened. Most often it is at a family gathering where my uncle Monty goes on and on about all the things wrong with my age group and millennials in general.

“You know, the youth are going to have their brains permanently damaged in the way they use technology.”

“These Internet trends just show the overall values of young people. All they care about is cats and health shakes to put on Instagram. Whatever happened to meaningful behaviours in our daily lives?”

“Looks like millennials have taken the smart out of Smart Phone.”

My uncle has really said the above statements. And I have heard many other middle-aged folks expressing comparable sentiments. They really seem to think that we in this age group are just a bunch of shallow, technology-obsessed jerks. The word that really gets me here is “shallow.”

What even is the definition of “shallow?” In literal terms, it refers to something of little depth, like a tidal pool. This word is meant to describe something, not someone. I was quite shocked when I first heard the word being used to describe a human in a TV show. The context was some college girl arguing against going Greek because of the “shallow girls there.” I remember thinking, so you’re telling me that a sorority girl and tide pool can go under the same adjective? To this day, I think I have yet to personally describe a human with this word. To put it simply, it sounds ridiculous and quite dehumanizing to me.

I can understand why some people may view youth in this light, as people quite obsessed with superficial and arguably meaningless matters. They see the Internet trends like the photos pondering whether or not those legs on a beach are actually hot dogs and think that is what we are all about.

But to those who laugh at these seemingly silly Internet trends, you need to understand that any trend like this is not as important to any millennial’s existence as you may think. Let me spell it out. So while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed on an ordinary day, I see a BuzzFeed listicle about the typical adventures of somebody from Fairfield County, Connecticut (like myself). Do I click on the link and laugh uncontrollably? If it’s a reasonably good BuzzFeed article, you bet I do. Does that make me shallow (for lack of a better term)?

Absolutely not. Just because I laugh at a stupid list does not mean my entire identity is that list. The same goes for my peers. There are millenials who are working hard and finding innovative ways to solve our society’s major problems, from climate change to racial profiling. That same girl who finds herself glued to BuzzFeed quizzes during any free time she has may also be conducting research that could help find a cure for AIDS. Why do others never consider those aspects of the equation? That’s kind of like saying that if the most brilliant scientist in the world has a few too many drinks at the bar one night and then screws up a basic math problem, their entire identity is based on that inebriated night. Considering the amount of brilliant people I know at Carleton who ever so often get drunk and act like they didn’t even finish preschool, I have come to realize that judging people based on how they sometimes act is just unfair.

I bet there are some people who indeed let silly Internet trends take over their whole lives. However, I do not think that should be considered a stereotypical trait associated exclusively with youth. That same uncle I was talking about at the start of this article I have seen spending considerable time enjoying these trends like videos of old ladies singing to Miley Cyrus. If that isn’t hypocrisy, I don’t know what is.

Youth struggle with this constant obnoxious labeling by their elders. Just because we may frequent sites like BuzzFeed and other arenas of trends does not mean we are only the trends we like. Such labeling is ageism, clear and simple. All of us are complex human beings and should not be represented by the little things that may make us laugh.

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