Anxiety is a way of life for Gen Y.
March 16, 2017 4:22 AM   Subscribe

 
Not to be all "what about Generation X", but....some of us have this issue too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:34 AM on March 16 [51 favorites]


FDR's 1941 declaration of Four Freedoms included freedom from want and freedom from fear. In the speech introducing them, he included those as an expansion on the Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and religion. As a society, it's entirely within our ability to realize these goals, and it's practically criminal that the interests of the economically privileged to whom economic anxiety in others is advantageous have been encouraged, never mind allowed, to prevail.
posted by Gelatin at 4:55 AM on March 16 [44 favorites]


Economic insecurity produces anxiety.

Maybe the Boomers could have given us less trophies in exchange for not gutting the social safety net and education funding.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:08 AM on March 16 [56 favorites]


Not to be all "what about Generation X", but....some of us have this issue too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:34 AM on March 16 [4 favorites +] [!]


And so do baby boomers, and the silent generation, and before that and before that. No one is saying "only Gen Y has this problem". It's not absurd for a gen Y person to go hmmm i wonder if growing up during 9-11, bush, terrorism goosehunt, WMD nonsense, the plummet into a fucked up climate, and the 2nd great depression has anything to do with it?

It'd be cool if we could not derail this one into another "but what about Gen X"???
posted by FirstMateKate at 5:35 AM on March 16 [64 favorites]


I wonder - has anyone written about concrete strategies or protocols for interacting with anxious people? A confident, trusting person is going to react to a non-typically-presenting person, perhaps attempting to make casual conversation on the street, or ask about their political beliefs, or asking for help, very differently than someone who is generally even a little anxious. This seems like an important issue.
posted by amtho at 5:59 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Maybe the Boomers could have given us less trophies in exchange for not gutting the social safety net and education funding.

Fuck this noise. There's a shit-ton of younger-than-boomers cheering-on the gutting, y'know. This isn't about generations. It's completely about a political philosophy that took form pretty much as soon as the New Deal was set in place, grew and gained power over the decades, and continues apace today. Plenty of Gen-Y'ers are on-board with the dismantling. Or, did you not notice how active the Young Republicans were back in college?

As someone considered part of the Boomers, I'm as anxious as anyone, and have the meds to prove it.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:05 AM on March 16 [28 favorites]


IT's not only "but what about GEn X"?

Boomers lived in the shadow of the Bomb, and faced actual conscription.

By the time I got to age 18, the only conscription I was looking at was being drafted into the National Guard and sent to do relief work for the Floods of 1993, and since I could not pay my way to get to the Mississippi River to join volunteer efforts, I was half hoping for it. And the Bomb was getting downsized.

Not buying the premise here.
posted by ocschwar at 6:23 AM on March 16 [6 favorites]


> Economic insecurity produces anxiety.

*Looks at this thread.*

*Looks at previous thread.*

*Looks at this thread.*

Is it possible that we are all crippled by anxiety because the world has gaslit us into thinking that everything bad happening to us is our fault our fault our fault? Is that possible? Cause it seems pretty possible to me.

We are a generation of kicked dogs, blamed for acting like kicked dogs act.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:25 AM on March 16 [69 favorites]


This is my favorite part of the article:

Anxiety disorders are not just medical problems. They are inherently social illnesses, ones that are becoming more of an issue as economic insecurity increases and social connections are destroyed.
But herein lies the challenge. Facing this epidemic we now have a dilemma. How can we deal with these huge social causes while at the same time support and protect those who are suffering from the illness here and now?


I can say that the latter point-finding support and protecting people-is definitely a priority in the circles I'm in. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that the circles I'm in are heavily feminist and very queer. There's always been a thread of "protect your own" running through LGBT history, and for good reason. And my feminism focuses around prioritizing women and femmes and feminine characteristics in men. It's a subtle trend, and I'm glad it's catching on.

But it does pose a great question - how do we take care of people whe need taking care of, while they exist in a world that is actively harming them?
posted by FirstMateKate at 6:28 AM on March 16 [15 favorites]


IT's not only "but what about GEn X"?

Boomers lived in the shadow of the Bomb, and faced actual conscription.


Oh dear lord. No one is saying other generations do not have their own problems, cause by their own things, during their own time. what about the men boomers? Or even that the problems are dissimilar or don't overlap.

If you read the fucking article, the author only briefly mentions Gen Y. His own anxiety led him to observe the anxiety of his peers, to realize that most of them also have anxiety issues. He then uses that to springboard onto actual research, and from then on talks broadly about society as a whole — Many researchers also believe that when it comes to climate change we are undergoing “a collective anxiety that is insidious, even if we haven’t managed to connect all the dots”.

Sorry he didn't hold your hand and say "you get to be included, too". The straw men of "boomers have no problems and Gen X doesn't get anxiety" are really unnecessary.
posted by FirstMateKate at 6:43 AM on March 16 [71 favorites]


Yeah, thank you FirstMateKate. The writer is up front about coming from a Gen Y perspective, but discusses it in broader terms. Read beyond the title, guys.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 6:48 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


From our last discussion of Mean World Syndrome:
A deer in the forest has senses that let it monitor its environment out to a certain diameter. For the sake of the analogy let's say it's 250 meters, give or take depending on various factors (e.g. weather). That is all the deer needs. If a predator is further away then it doesn't really concern the deer. Now let's say we electronically augmented the deer's senses so that it could monitor the forest up to a kilometer around it. It would be aware of a lot more predators but that wouldn't actually be of any use to it because a predator further away than its unaugmented senses could detect shouldn't be of any concern. The only result of augmenting the deer's senses would be to stress the animal out, negatively impacting it. Almost every human being on the planet has senses that have been electronically augmented, through mass media and the internet and so on, resulting in the stresses of modern existence.
posted by Mayor West at 6:49 AM on March 16 [61 favorites]


Not a comment on Generation vs. Generation

But it seems to me that increased "awareness and reporting of" anxiety is being confused by everyone with an actual INCREASE in the prevalence of anxiety.

Who and where is this mythical people world where there were NO anxiety disorders?

Guillotines. Saber-toothed tigers. Polio. Vikings. Plague. Witchcraft. Star Chambers. Poisoners. Olaf the drunk neighbor. Drought.

It seems rather than anxiety is and has always been the default condition for humans everywhere.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:51 AM on March 16 [10 favorites]


> But if we really want to solve our anxiety epidemic we have to think of solutions that look at the causes of the problem, and not just the symptoms.

In all seriousness; the internet and social media (neither of which the article mentions) almost certainly aren't helping. The older members of Generation Y are pretty much the last people who can remember life without it, and everyone I know my age pretty much weeps with gratitude that none of it that stuff was around when we were in high school, began dating, etc. to make that difficult and stressful time in our lives even more difficult and stressful.

On preview, what Mayor West said.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:53 AM on March 16 [9 favorites]



It seems rather than anxiety is and has always been the default condition for humans everywhere.
posted by jfwlucy at 9:51 AM on March 16 [+] [!]


As someone with an anxiety disorder that has almost destroyed my life several times, and which requires medication and constant vigilance, can we not dismiss them and label them as "normal", please?
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:01 AM on March 16 [22 favorites]


I'm not dismissing your anxiety disorder, and in fact I also have one, and I'm NOT labeling them as normal. Please.

I'm saying that anxiety (along with other mental disorders), in all its forms, as a transient phenomenon, and as a product of cultural norms, and as an individualized diagnosis is not a new thing that has suddenly emerged in recent decades.

Rather it has been with us for thousands of years and only in relatively recent years has it been labeled and studied and identified.

It's like saying sexual abuse of children wasn't widespread before the 20th century. SURE it was! It was only then, though, that it was even talked widely about, got a name and a body of study and statistics and theory, and even funding devoted to combating it.
posted by jfwlucy at 7:08 AM on March 16 [11 favorites]


It is probably not useful to posit anything about anxiety over deep time, since the way we categorize behavior is tightly related to culture (really, it's tightly related to our relationship to the processes of production and to the rules used to sort people into groups with different relationships to the means of production). Precapitalist societies experienced their affects, for better or for worse, differently than we do, and so attempting to say "ah, it has always been so!" requires a refusal to historicize what counts as mental order and what counts as mental disorder.

And yes, society has almost always been cruel, and one of the ways that societies like to be cruel is through systematically punishing the lower classes/castes until they believe they deserve to be punished, and also to act like they believe they deserve to be punished.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:14 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]


Dunno, I think Happy Birthday by Weird AL Yankovic really level set my expectations at a young age. Yeah, social anxiety, bring maligned by other social segments, fear of reprisal... the bomb, lying politicians, careers must make money, both parents have to work, a beach day is fine as long as you gave your work phone, sunscreen and are ever vigilant about sharks, when people cut me off in the grocery store I stop going to the grocery store, 40 hour work weeks aren't allowed for managers, what's for dinner, who did the laundry last, we must provide something for the bake sale or we are bad parents, the great thing about agile workplaces is that you are still expected to work on sick days - do you take that as sick time or not though, I can pay for rent, my phone bill or food...

Dunno all straight forward.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:28 AM on March 16


Gang, when we pull the mask of this monster of the week don't be surprised that it was really Crazy Old Man Capitalism all along.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:32 AM on March 16 [44 favorites]


Perhaps a useful frame might be "Generation Y hasn't known much besides precarity, so there's no "normal"; Gen X, Boomers, etc had periods of "normal" for comparison".

One could also add, "For Generation Y, there's a discourse normalizing anxiety which is simultaneously liberating and depoliticizing". Like, I am a youngish Gen X person and I remember when anxiety disorders became a thing; I didn't grow up with that framing. Even though I am a very anxious person and have only become more so in the past few months - like, I am having terrible problems falling asleep and staying asleep, and I've had so many really bad dreams lately that it's not even very restful when I do. I don't even especially want to sleep, because I feel like something terrible can happen literally any minute.

One thing I think we could all do more here on metafilter is to read with the material before we read against it. This is certainly something I don't do especially well lately, because I am so stressed that my immediate response to virtually everything that isn't nonstop kittens is 'no, I don't think so'.

So for instance, if we read with the article, we might explore ways in which anxiety is "a way of life for Gen Y" - what might lead someone to say plausibly that life in 2017 is different from life in 1997?

There's a sort of "saming" discourse that is a trap, where we rush to say "well, everyone always experienced this thing that you're claiming is new and different", instead of trying to figure out ways in which something is new and different, even though it may also have commonalities with the past. Obviously we don't really think "nothing ever changes, all people everywhere have the same emotional and political experiences", but "saming" discourse risks pushing us into that kind of contention.
posted by Frowner at 7:46 AM on March 16 [52 favorites]


lol, no. The paper specifically talks about age breakdowns in research meaning [children and adolescents] vs. [adults] not any 'whatever age demographics' the 'journalist' feels like using to mean 'X' or 'Y' or 'millineal' which almost always tends to line up with 'whatever the journalist happens to be, btw.'

back to clinicaltrials.gov data wonkery.
posted by mrdaneri at 7:49 AM on March 16


So it's really weird for me to see this entire article not mention some of the prevailing beliefs in social science about the breakdown of civic society, particularly in the last 30 or so years, and how it's affected civic engagement and social support. I think may help to explain why these problems are particularly affecting this generation far more than any attempts to suggest this generation have more stressors than any previous generation. Essentially, it's not that the external causes of anxiety have increased, so much as the things that help to remove it are gone.
posted by corb at 7:49 AM on March 16 [24 favorites]


You know what finally made me feel better about anxiety? Fran Lebowitz: "there's no such thing as inner peace, there's only nervousness and death."
posted by sexyrobot at 7:59 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]


Essentially, it's not that the external causes of anxiety have increased, so much as the things that help to remove it are gone.

I'm not an especially gregarious guy, and I've found it hard to square my own life and the lives of people around me (co-workers, neighbors, etc.) with the general social science drumbeat, which seems to be:

Social scientist: "We're all bowling alone." Me: "Uh, well, not really, just earlier this week I ..." Social scientist: "YOU ARE BOWLING ALONE."

Beyond people looking at their phones too damn much, things don't feel radically different on the togetherness front than they did 20-30 years ago. I honestly wonder how much of this is not about actual social conditions, but more about the expectations of the *quality* or sexiness of those conditions that looking at highly edited social media versions of others folks lives are generating.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:10 AM on March 16 [6 favorites]


Here's Skocpol's Diminished Democracy, which talks a bit about this phenomena, though not connecting it to anxiety.
Where once cross-class voluntary federations held sway, national public life is now dominated by professional advocacy groups without chapters or members. And at the state and local levels, "voluntary groups" are, more often than not, nonprofit institutions through which paid employees deliver services and coordinate occasional volunteer projects. In our contemporary civic world, it is much easier to imagine Warren Durgin as the client of a nonprofit agency, or as a recipient of charitable assistance, than it is to envision him as an active member of any voluntary association that includes people from a broad range of social backgrounds - apart, perhaps, from a church.
posted by corb at 8:15 AM on March 16 [8 favorites]


Social scientist: "We're all bowling alone." Me: "Uh, well, not really, just earlier this week I ..." Social scientist: "YOU ARE BOWLING ALONE."

I think it's less "YOU ARE BOWLING ALONE" and more, "You don't belong to a bowling organization that you identify strongly with, that gives you the regular chance to casually meet that social science has shown creates friendships, which crosses class lines and gives you a chance to feel intimately connected to something on a non-individual level."

But pop-social-science sometimes does make it sound like the former.
posted by corb at 8:18 AM on March 16 [12 favorites]


I think it's less "YOU ARE BOWLING ALONE" and more, "You don't belong to a bowling organization that you identify strongly with, that gives you the regular chance to casually meet that social science has shown creates friendships, which crosses class lines and gives you a chance to feel intimately connected to something on a non-individual level."

I know post-Trump there is a focus on communication and friendship across class lines, but in the supposed heyday of bowling leagues, Rotary, etc., all of the cohorts people in my family participated in were fairly non-diverse from a class/ethnic standpoint (fraternal orders, too - in our family it was the Sons of Italy). Over the weekend, I went to the game shop near me, and the group of players for one of their gaming afternoons was, at least on a once-over, more diverse (certainly more racially diverse) than any social group my mid-century relatives would have tolerated. I'm also a member of a number of local preservation / history groups that give me a fairly deep sense of connection to my larger community.

Blah, blah, blah - TLDR and anecdata, but I still don't see it. Maybe it's an artifact of my living in an urban area and having some time on my hands to be able to make the effort. I can see how someone more geographically isolated or w/out leisure time could quickly become socially isolated.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:29 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


I was anxious before social media, but social media definitely ramped it up, and it's gone through the roof lately to the point where I'm literally trembling and vomiting. I've taken a hiatus from twitter, I don't read the political threads on here, and I have a long list of muted words on Facebook (fbpurity, y'all).

This is not a "what about Gen X" comment because I see that my younger friends have it even worse. At age 25 I still had hope for the future. Some of my friends have little hope of owning a home or raising a family.

My friends and I are LGBTQ so we also deal with increasing minority stress as we're being threatened physically and politically. That's specifically what drove me off social media - a trans woman being beaten to death, and a (separate) attack on a LGBT center. Things were supposed to be getting better for us. The early 2010s gave us a false sense of hope.
posted by AFABulous at 8:30 AM on March 16 [20 favorites]


I thinkn people massively overstate the importance of generational cohort in the human experience. But "things are pretty much the same except with smartphones" is a hard sell, as an article.
posted by thelonius at 8:33 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


So it's really weird for me to see this entire article not mention some of the prevailing beliefs in social science about the breakdown of civic society, particularly in the last 30 or so years, and how it's affected civic engagement and social support.

It was very weird to me, after the election, that I wanted to go to...church. Like, a church. Specifically for the community.

But churches aren't safe for me. (As a kid, even the Unitarian ones weren't safe.) and people my age (in my area) don't go to church, and whether that's because of declining religiosity (doubtful; you never had to be pious to go to church) or because churches (and many other denominations) have been really fucking terrible and mostly about hate for the past 30 years...I mean, I know what seems more likely to me.

But there's no replacement. LGBT communities, IME, tend to be full of variously traumatized people, and so while necessary, they don't necessarily provide support except for the people who are really fucked over (which is a good reason to participate, but it's still not a source of support).

And then finding a community based on interest on the internet means you're going to run into a treatment resistant colony of toxic masculinity and/or racism.

So, you know. What the fuck do you do?
posted by schadenfrau at 8:43 AM on March 16 [25 favorites]


I was anxious before social media, but social media definitely ramped it up, and it's gone through the roof lately to the point where I'm literally trembling and vomiting. I've taken a hiatus from twitter, I don't read the political threads on here, and I have a long list of muted words on Facebook (fbpurity, y'all).

Oh, yes. I've never been a great sleeper (it usually takes me half an hour to an hour to fall asleep) but once I'm asleep I'm good. Over the past couple of months I started: not being able to fall asleep for hours, waking up hours before my alarm and not being able to get back to sleep, half-sleeping where you don't feel like you're sleeping. I talked to my therapist about it, and he suggested not reading Twitter so much, so I deleted it from my phone, and wow, sleeping much better.

I think social media and the speed at which communication tells us all the horrible things that are happening is not a good thing--Twitter especially is like a hose of performative outrage 24 hours a day. I just can't do it right now.
posted by Automocar at 8:59 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Okay. So anxiety and depression are linked to urban environments. So far, we've been presuming that the psychological aspects of urban society have been the cause of the correlation, but what if there's a physiological cause?

We spent decades adding lead to gasoline before we figured out it was causing violent crime rates to skyrocket. We're just now finding out about the connection between highways and dementia. So we know that environmental pollutants can directly affect our state of mind.

You know what else directly affects our state of mind? Carbon dioxide. Multiple experiments have demonstrated that carbon dioxide has measurable negative effects on human cognition in the short term at levels as low as 1000ppm, which people are exposed to for hours every day.

What if, and I know this is cray-cray, lunatic conspiracy theory stuff, but bear with me here... what if spending increasing amounts of our time bathed in a waste product our bodies put a lot of effort into expelling is bad for us? What if one of the causes of the anxiety we experience in industrial society is the composition of the air we're breathing?
posted by MrVisible at 9:13 AM on March 16 [10 favorites]


The writer is up front about coming from a Gen Y perspective, but discusses it in broader terms. Read beyond the title, guys.

Erm, I posted my initial comment after reading the article, because the whole time I was sitting there and nodding and thinking "this applies to me too, though".

However, it could simply be because I don't know where the bright-drawn line is between Generation X and Generation Y, and am reading something into this that wasn't there. Entirely possible.

Gen X [....] had periods of "normal" for comparison

Like fun we did.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:34 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


But there's no replacement. LGBT communities, IME, tend to be full of variously traumatized people, and so while necessary, they don't necessarily provide support except for the people who are really fucked over (which is a good reason to participate, but it's still not a source of support).

yeah, a (trans, gay) friend and I were discussing this recently. You have traumatized people trying to take care of other traumatized people and we're not equipped for that. Some have serious addictions, some were abandoned by birth families and never really learned how to adult, most are barely scraping by financially. We do the best we can but it is nothing like a bowling league or church group or other social groups.

I think this trauma is now spreading to other communities that weren't previously as affected. People are less able to take care of each other, not because they're more selfish but because they're wrestling with their own demons, and few people in their peer group are financially and psychologically stable. Therapy and medication only does so much.

Surprised epigenetics hasn't come up yet. NIH study: "The human literature is in its infancy but does reveal some epigenetic associations with anxiety behaviors and disorders. [...] Further, there is evidence that epigenetic changes may be inherited to affect subsequent generations."
posted by AFABulous at 9:40 AM on March 16 [11 favorites]


Gen X [....] had periods of "normal" for comparison

Like fun we did.


Why do you say this? I'm 42 and I had plenty of hope in the late 90s and 00s. My childhood was kind of fucked, so I had anxiety from the get-go, but I felt like the world was consistently getting better overall until the 2008 crash. Yes, there were Very Bad Things like 9/11 and the Iraq War but they didn't touch the vast majority of Gen Xers on a tangible level.
posted by AFABulous at 9:43 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]


Like fun we did.

No, I think that in the aggregate we did have periods of relative "normal", both as children and in the mid nineties. This is not to say that every Gen X person had periods of "normal", but work has gotten more precarious now and the kind of boom that happened in the mid-late nineties, where there were actual wage gains and it was relatively easy to find work, just don't seem to be happening anymore.

When I graduated from college, it was easy to find okay-paying temp gigs, for instance - you had to get through the first couple of weeks until an agency got you an assignment, and it was certainly a pain in the ass hanging on the telephone between assignments, but you could be pretty confident that you could make rent. I had two housemates who were sort of permanent temps, because they could work for a few months, take a month or so off and then find more temp work - and while they didn't have a lot of money, they had enough money for rooms in a nice, non-crowded group house, meals out, books, movies, budget travel, etc. Part of that was because though they had student loans, the loans were much, much smaller. I got two long-term jobs by temping, and most of my temp jobs were back-to-back.

Three years or so ago? One of my housemates, with a college degree and financial experience, was looking for temp work and got absolutely nothing. I know plenty of young people and the ones with precarious gigs are really precarious, in ways that we were not in the nineties.

Again, I'm not saying that things were awesome, or that every single person who was young in the nineties had an easy time of it, but it was way, way easier to keep a roof over your head.
posted by Frowner at 9:46 AM on March 16 [32 favorites]


Yes, there were Very Bad Things like 9/11 and the Iraq War but they didn't touch the vast majority of Gen Xers on a tangible level.

I'm only a few years older than you, and a marrow-level terror of a nuclear holocaust was one of the defining features of my childhood.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:48 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]


Another HUGE difference between Gen X and Gen Y is student debt. A 30 year old friend still has $50k in student debt, years after graduation, and needs two roommates to be able to pay bills. I had maybe $10k when I graduated and it was paid off years ago. I have zero debt besides credit cards I pay off every month and a leased car. I still worry a lot about money because it's just a habit, but it's so much less of a burden than what Gen Y college grads are dealing with.
posted by AFABulous at 9:54 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


I'm only a few years older than you, and a marrow-level terror of a nuclear holocaust was one of the defining features of my childhood.

I've got bad news for you about the next four years.
posted by AFABulous at 9:55 AM on March 16 [4 favorites]


FDR's 1941 declaration of Four Freedoms included freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Ten years earlier he also said that hte only thing we have to fear is fear itself - which is patent nonsense if what is uppermost on your mind is the loss of a job or too little money to put food on the table. ("Don't worry, honey. We won't starve. I've stopped fearing fear!") But hey, it sounded good. Freedom from fear? As well say freedom from the common cold. Fear is part of the animal nature. It makes us do things, some good, some bad.

Freedom from want gets us into the whole question of who's going to pay for it, and I don't have the time. I hear America is a rich nation, I hear we are past our eyeballs in debt. Discuss among yourselves.

"For my cohort – Generation Y – it increasingly feels as though anxiety disorders are more common that not. The list I have of my friends with different forms of the disorder grows longer all the time, leading me to ask, why is it that this plagues so many of my generation?"

Pretty small sampling to make this kind of generalization.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:55 AM on March 16


From our last discussion of Mean World Syndrome: ... The only result of augmenting the deer's senses would be to stress the animal out, negatively impacting it. Almost every human being on the planet has senses that have been electronically augmented, through mass media and the internet and so on, resulting in the stresses of modern existence.

I think about this a lot, and I think it's correct. Except, the nature of the world we live in today, which is deeply interconnected in many ways, means that we actually can be affected by things that happen outside of our "natural" frame of reference. This is what makes modern life so anxiety-inducing... unlike the deer, the predators beyond our natural perception can impact us and we do, to some extent, need to be aware of them. But we're not mentally prepared to juggle all that extra information.
posted by mpbx at 9:56 AM on March 16 [16 favorites]


Like fun we did.

I was able to rise to the pinnacle of my field without a college degree. (Which probably requires a Masters now for nearly entry level work.) Not having a college degree never stopped me from getting a job. And for that, I don't have student loans. There are many people like myself who were able to get a foot in the door and create a good life. For the most part, has that been possible for the last two decades?

Every generation has its own traumas, but I do believe we has it easier in many ways. We were slackers; following generations didn't have that luxury.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:58 AM on March 16 [9 favorites]


I'm a late Gen Xer with a lifelong anxiety problem. My sense is that anxiety disorders may be getting more prevalent, but they're also a lot less stigmatized than they were when I was younger. I feel freer to talk about it in a non-jokey way that acknowledges that this is a real mental health issue and not just me being neurotic and self-indulgent. And once I could talk about it, I realized that a lot of my peers were also dealing with anxiety. So yeah, I think this is partly generational, but I also think that it may be that younger people grew up with less stigma around mental health stuff, and that's why it seems like more of them have this particular mental health problem.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:06 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Why do you say this? I'm 42 and I had plenty of hope in the late 90s and 00s. My childhood was kind of fucked, so I had anxiety from the get-go, but I felt like the world was consistently getting better overall until the 2008 crash.

Others ahead of me have mentioned the student loan debt and hangovers of the Cold War, so allow me to also add:

* The dot-com bubble tanking the economy in several cities
* The federal government shutdown in 1995
* Waco
* The FIRST time that the World Trade Center was attacked in 1993
* Oklahoma City
* The Unibomber was still A Thing
* Rodney King and O.J. giving a foretaste of racial inequity
* Columbine
* Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky
* Everyone freaking the fuck out about "The Y2k bug" to the point that people were going disaster-prepper
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:10 AM on March 16


Don't you think that every generation could make a similar list to that, though?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:37 AM on March 16 [9 favorites]


So it's really weird for me to see this entire article not mention some of the prevailing beliefs in social science about the breakdown of civic society, particularly in the last 30 or so years, and how it's affected civic engagement and social support. I think may help to explain why these problems are particularly affecting this generation far more than any attempts to suggest this generation have more stressors than any previous generation. Essentially, it's not that the external causes of anxiety have increased, so much as the things that help to remove it are gone.


Thank you, corb, for this and the link to Skocpol. I look forward to reading it.
posted by Altomentis at 10:39 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Don't you think that every generation could make a similar list to that, though?

I do, which is why I was saying that to combat the notion that my own generation had a period of "relative normalcy".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:50 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Ah, ok. I think we're about the same age, and I would add that urban violence was really, really bad when I was a teenager, which affected those of us who lived in cities, and I also think that we were influenced in profound, complicated, and differing ways by coming of age in the shadow of the AIDS epidemic.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:59 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


This article does not come anywhere close to saying "people of all other generations have lived lives free from anxiety", so it would be nice if people could stop pretending that it does.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:08 AM on March 16 [17 favorites]


My sense is that anxiety disorders may be getting more prevalent, but they're also a lot less stigmatized than they were when I was younger.

This is a brave thing to say, considering the biggest fucking joke among the mentally "well" and conservatives alike is "triggers".
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:16 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


My initial reaction to this article is that it calls out what I have been observing most of my life. Increased isolation, from a variety of sources, i.e., changes in news reporting in papers, on TV, and now on the internet; working so much and/or commuting so far that we come home exhausted, turn on our distraction of choice and then go to bed and repeat. Many people have little or have only very superficial social structure where they "belong" anymore.

As the youngest of five siblings with my eldest brother being 19 years older, my parents were in their late 30s when I was born. They married in 1934 and lived alternately in the city (Spokane) and in rural small towns (northern Idaho). Their stories of life in those small towns is, in many ways, what we have culturally idealized.

For example - my father ran a sawmill and one of the workers lived next door. This worker was an alcoholic, what today we might call a high functioning alcoholic. Every workday my mother would go next door and wake the guy up so he could get to work and keep supporting himself and his wife (also an alcoholic). And it was no big deal. And if someone called my family's home when they were out, the operator might tell them, "Jo and Harold are over playing cards with the Swensons, I'll connect you there." My father didn't particularly like to hunt, which was a big part of subsistence during the depression in that area. One day, a friend asked if they could hang the deer they had gotten in my parents shed to age. A couple of days later, my father noticed that one of the carcasses was still hanging and asked the friend about it. The friend said, "Oh, that's your share." Oh, and they never had a key to the front door of one house - they never would have locked it anyway.

I realize how idealized this picture is, yet it does illustrate how people belonged to communities that worked with certain levels of diversity and dysfunction to still support one another. The people in the community "belonged". I recognize that, being in the nearly all-white Pacific Northwest, this was an early seed of white privilege. Of course we were all poor as churchmice. If not for hunting and fishing, my family would have been mighty hungry.

Later, when I was growing up in California, my parents got home from work early enough that we could have dinner and maybe go visit some friends on a weekday evening. Close enough friends that you didn't have to call first. Just "let's go visit Mac and Lorna." So we'd get in the car and drive over there and, unless they weren't home, we would be welcomed and the adults would spend the evening chatting and whatever. Sometimes those couples would do the same thing. I only know the names of a couple of my neighbors, between working and being a major introvert.

I started being treated for anxiety in my teens. While some of it was inherited tendency, I think it was at least activated by the stress of being "different". I was always "different". Adding the whole nuclear war shadow didn't help any. I fully didn't expect to reach my 21st birthday. Later I developed chronic panic disorder and will have to take medication til I die. For most of my life this has been unusual among the people I know and work with. I do agree with the author of the article that more and more people are being affected by anxiety, sometimes crippling anxiety.

Looking through my parents eyes, and then my own, the changes, or breakdown, if you will, in civic society, over these last 50 years is pretty dramatic. I've been lucky because my family has always been a strong foundation of belonging. If nothing else I am always a "Mentis".
posted by Altomentis at 11:24 AM on March 16 [20 favorites]


This is a brave thing to say, considering the biggest fucking joke among the mentally "well" and conservatives alike is "triggers".
I was afraid to come clean about my mental health issues when I was in college because my college literally kicked students out if they found out about their mental illness. I knew two people who divulged that they were having a mental health crisis and were told to pack their things and go home. I would have lost my insurance if that happened, because I was only able to be on my parents' insurance if I was a full-time student. You have no idea how bad things were in the bad old days.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:32 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]


Generations X and Y were raised, in record numbers, by divorced parents. This is a shared cultural experience that is unique to these generations, and in many cases destroyed the family support structure available to earlier folks. I'm not saying that no-fault divorce should be abolished, but I truly believe that the extreme anxiety among Millennials has at least some of its roots here. I know that lots of people in the past grew up in abusive homes where divorce would have made things a lot better, but I can tell you from my own experience that never sleeping in the same place more than 2 nights in a row and living out of a backpack as a small child will fuck you up for life.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 11:33 AM on March 16 [7 favorites]


Columbine happened in 1999, less than 20 years ago. So did the Unibomber. And while the lead up to Y2K was stressful it was over soon after. I think it's a stretch to say these individual incidents impacted people in their 30s the way massive debt is impacting Gen Y. I mean, at least my generation had hopes of owning a home if they wanted one. Honestly, EC, I'm not sure why you're pushing back in this so much.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:37 AM on March 16 [10 favorites]



Don't you think that every generation could make a similar list to that, though?

I do, which is why I was saying that to combat the notion that my own generation had a period of "relative normalcy".

This is very close to what I am trying to say. There have always been anxieties, anxiety disorders (and other mental health challenges), and no shortage of things to be anxious about. It's only in modern times that we have come to think of anxiety as a problem to be solved and not just the way things are.

This is not to trivialize anxiety, or to deny that there are new and emerging things to be stressed about, and new ways of living that induce stress, even as polio and smallpox recede into the past. I feel strongly, though, that some people romanticize the past as a place with less stress when in fact it was no less challenging than the present.
posted by jfwlucy at 11:40 AM on March 16


I am READY for the thinkpieces decades from now about the problems resulting from so many kids growing up with older parents, I hope they figure out that it's because their Gen Y parents held off starting families because depressed wages and a terrible job market meant they could not afford to get married/start families/buy homes/other typical markers of adulthood.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 11:42 AM on March 16 [5 favorites]


There have always been anxieties, anxiety disorders (and other mental health challenges), and no shortage of things to be anxious about. It's only in modern times that we have come to think of anxiety as a problem to be solved and not just the way things are.

This is not to trivialize anxiety, or to deny that there are new and emerging things to be stressed about, and new ways of living that induce stress, even as polio and smallpox recede into the past. I feel strongly, though, that some people romanticize the past as a place with less stress when in fact it was no less challenging than the present.


With all due respect, this does not accurately reflect medical history or the current clinical viewpoint of what is going on. You don't get diagnosed with anxiety disorders because regular life events are stressing you out. In fact, that is almost the opposite of how they are diagnosed.

No one is saying the present is fundamentally more challenging than the past. What experts in the field ARE saying is that our current challenges are overriding the coping mechanisms of huge swathes of our society in ways they have never seen before, and evidence seems to suggest that it may be tied to recent cultural upheavals. This doesn't mean living through the plagues was relaxing, or that the Dust Bowl was a soothing romp.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:57 AM on March 16 [14 favorites]


Honestly, EC, I'm not sure why you're pushing back in this so much.

Because the syndrome described in this article almost precisely describes me and my friends to a T as well, except for the fact that we are not in "Generation Y", whatever that means, and I am afraid that any effort made to alleviate the situation will overlook us simply by virtue of our not being part of an arbitrarily-designated generational benchmark.

Also because a lot of us in Generation X were already talking about this shit 10 years ago, but there weren't enough of us so no one paid any attention, and now that there's enough people talking about it all of a sudden it's a Thing and I'm sitting here like "where the fuck was this acknowledgement ten years ago?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:35 PM on March 16 [10 favorites]


It would be cool if we could talk about graduating right into to the mouth of the great recession, which effectively dooms us to a life of lower wages if we can even find work, and about older folks not being able to retire, which means fewer jobs to go around for everyone (and fewer upper level jobs, which especially affects gen x). It would be nice if we could talk about how people in Gen Y are holding off on getting married, buying homes, and starting families because they can't afford any of it. It would be good if we could talk about how these are having a deleterious effect on a whole big age group.

It would be great if we could have a discussion about these problems - because they end up harming everyone, not just Gen Y - that doesn't immediately devolve into handing out participation trophies to Gen X and Boomers for also having it bad.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 1:06 PM on March 16 [23 favorites]


It would be great if we could have a discussion about these problems - because they end up harming everyone, not just Gen Y - that doesn't immediately devolve into handing out participation trophies to Gen X and Boomers for also having it bad.

if they end up harming everyone, then it would be even better if we had a discussion about the problems as problems in and of themselves, without claiming that they are unique to any one generation.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:14 PM on March 16 [8 favorites]


I think I am getting a little emotional about the topic, though, and I'll bow out - sorry, y'all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:19 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Maybe we could just scrap this whole idea of generational cohorts! I don't think you can pigeonhole whole populations by (arbitrary, controversial and ever-changing) age group anyway. It's lazy and it encourages age discrimination and bigotry. Look at all the vitriol flung against "Boomers" (selfish!) and "Generation Y" (special snowflakes!).

I think anxiety is a growing problem, and for good reason - the world is a more precarious place for many people. I believe that many more people are diagnosed than in the past - I am sure many alcoholics and opiate addicts were self-medicating! But I think that while modern life offers more choices and opportunities for many, especially those who might have had none in the past, those choices themselves can be unsettling and produce anxiety.

There were drawbacks as well as advantages to small-town/small-community life, and certainly some thrived while others were crushed by it. But small towns are dying out. Cities and wealthy suburbs are where the economic action is, and small towns and rural areas are being left behind. Those towns are going, boys, and they ain't coming back, to paraphrase Bruce Springsteen.

I don't miss the old days. I love my technology, and I love being able to interact with people from all over the world. I'm glad I can avoid phone calls most of the time! But one thing I do miss, what Frowner pointed out, was how easy it was to find well-paying work in the 90's. I miss that job boom! I wonder how much anxiety could be alleviated, at least in the US, by a single-payer health system and universal basic income? A lot, I bet.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:28 PM on March 16 [6 favorites]


There's a dynamic in this thread of intergenerational prejudice, where a topic about millennials has to become about "everybody". Like, does that language sound familiar at all, in racist or misogynist contexts? Let's be colorblind, let's discuss "all" races. Sound familiar? It's othering and kills our ability to share experiences.

My therapist identifies as a gen X and I identify as a millenial. So it is actually possible to have a discursive relationship where these contexts can be respected. It takes continuing education, awareness, and most of all admitting there's stuff that you may not know well enough about to speak on at depth, I.e. deferring to the knowledge of the other. This is nontrivial emotional work.

Read with, not against.
posted by polymodus at 1:30 PM on March 16 [10 favorites]


it would be even better if we had a discussion about the problems as problems in and of themselves, without claiming that they are unique to any one generation.

It would be, but these problems affect people differently depending on where they are in life. The recession was crap for everyone, but it was crap in different ways. A person unable to find a job is different than a person unable to advance at theirs, and another person unable to leave theirs. It's part of the same system. We all have different perspectives of the same system.

We all need to understand this so we can someday have the conversation without the first comment literally being "what about Gen X." We're talking about the same overarching problem! We can talk about how it's hard on Gen Y and that doesn't mean that it isn't hard on anyone else. Working towards solutions will help everyone.

But one thing I do miss, what Frowner pointed out, was how easy it was to find well-paying work in the 90's. I miss that job boom!


People my age missed that job boom! This is why cohorts are useful for discussion: we have pretty different life experiences. We can learn from each other.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 1:36 PM on March 16 [10 favorites]


The weird thing about the Gen X / Gen Y divide is that it's not an exact science. Like some people my age consider themselves millenials and some consider themselves Gen X. My exact age. There's no exact breaking point.

So maybe we could stop fighting each other? This stuff for the last several comments just seems pretty weird.
posted by corb at 1:40 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]


I just want to be clear— I’m not pushing back against “this affects all generations” because I think this is a magical Gen-Y problem or anything. Obviously, these issues are affecting everyone. Obviously, this is a problem for Gen X-ers. Novels in the 30s talk about women being sent to sanatariums for nerve conditions, so it obviously existed back then too.

But when we see a specific problem hitting a certain age cohort particularly hard, the point of studying that cohort is NOT “we only care about this topic when it comes to this cohort”. It is more about epidemiology of the problem: if we can figure out why the conditions of this cohort have made them so much more vulnerable to this condition, then perhaps we can figure out how to prevent and/or treat this condition for everyone who has it, in every cohort.

When HIV/AIDS researchers focus on LGBT POC populations, it isn’t because they don’t care about how HIV/AIDS affects white heterosexuals. It is because in those specific populations, the conditions that lead to disease transmission are so heightened that they become visible, and track-able, and therefore preventable. You study the places where the problems are most visible and obvious, so that you can treat the problem wherever it happens to exist. The research that was done among those populations fifteen years ago has ended up benefitting white heterosexuals in the throes of opioid addiction today. If studying a cohort in crisis ends up helping to heal people of all cohorts, then that is wonderful!

Studying disease clusters doesn’t mean everyone everywhere else is perfectly well. It just means that it is easier to see patterns in clusters.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:42 PM on March 16 [12 favorites]


yeah, a (trans, gay) friend and I were discussing this recently. You have traumatized people trying to take care of other traumatized people and we're not equipped for that. Some have serious addictions, some were abandoned by birth families and never really learned how to adult, most are barely scraping by financially. We do the best we can but it is nothing like a bowling league or church group or other social groups.

Chiming in here to say oh my god yes. Like, most of my queer community building for most of my life has been through ace community spaces, which skew a) hella young on top of everything else with b) varying levels of trauma and isolation* and c) are very often dislocated and meet unreliably, if at all, in person and rely heavily on the Internet for connectivity. Hell, most of my queer community access has been mediated by the internet and heavily age segregated and structured. I think that also tends to fragment the strength and support a community is able to give, because there's relatively little support that can be mediated by people who are all themselves young and struggling and trying to juggle competing responsibilities, or who are--worse!--adolescents dealing with uncertain welcomes from their own families.

And then you hit familial trauma and, and, the fact that I'm hearing from tens of people just in my personal networks or here on the Blue as I go through a very public breakdown in family support--you hit the thing where a lot of us have had support networks that we were raised up being told we were part of them outright reject us. And the thing where family networks break down, so a lot of us have some abandonment trauma or trust issues or just... the trauma of having experienced people we love leave us, the trauma of not having been able to securely trust that our relationships will hold solid or that our loved ones will always have our back.

It fragments communities and rips them to bits. And you wind up with these weird generational ripples that I see a lot of, where the experiences just seem super different to me and then there are the ripples in experience among people who inhabit different micro-communities within the acronym whose trauma presents itself in different ways. I feel like it makes unity and real support that much harder, which leaves people feeling more alone.

*please just believe me on this one or memail me if you want more detail; I very badly do not want to derail the thread here. consider also the communities I've been part of make more sense when considered as a subset of queer communities than as "really straights pretending to be oppressed" which is the reason for my kneejerk, anxious over-explaining note here because I've been made to pay for assuming I'm welcome before
posted by sciatrix at 1:46 PM on March 16 [9 favorites]


How predictable and sad that this turned so rapidly into an intergenerational pissing match instead of actually talking about the root causes and problems.
posted by speicus at 2:18 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


. What experts in the field ARE saying is that our current challenges are overriding the coping mechanisms of huge swathes of our society in ways they have never seen before.
.

I get that. And what I am saying is that I think that's an extremely shortsighted and ahistorical conclusion to draw. They've never seen these ways before -- well, how long have they been looking? People both as individuals and in the aggregate have been driven to madness (i.e. had their coping mechanisms overridden) by famine, war, and disease for thousands and thousands of years.

Who is in a position to make the claim that social media induced anxiety is qualitatively different from anything that's gone before?

And I return to my earlier question, who and where are these people who were more free from anxiety than we are today?

Again, I'm not denying that current challenges are daunting, nor am I saying that social anxiety disorders are not worthy of attention. I'm saying that it's not appropriate to look back at any historical era and claim that they necessarily had fewer anxiety disorders than we do today. No one had names for them. No one was counting. But they were there, just like autism was there and multiple sclerosis and so on.
posted by jfwlucy at 2:21 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]


Maybe we could just scrap this whole idea of generational cohorts!

Count me in.
posted by brennen at 2:23 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


It fragments communities and rips them to bits. And you wind up with these weird generational ripples that I see a lot of, where the experiences just seem super different to me and then there are the ripples in experience among people who inhabit different micro-communities....

I really like this ripple metaphor. We're all on the same pond, but being hit by different combinations of ripples based on age, geography, family....And on and on.

People my age missed that job boom!

Whaddya mean missed? Walmart is always hiring.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:03 PM on March 16


all i can say is that at the age of 59, things seem as frazzled as they've ever been - it's kind of like another cultural revolution is about to happen, just like it did in the 60s - people are on edge

i don't know if it's fair to compare generations, but it seems to me that the generation that went through the depression and ww2 had a lot to complain about, but didn't much - they just seemed to think "you just coped"

that always seemed too simplistic to me

i will say that they never said much about previous generations and what they did or didn't do - for some reason once my generation came along, it started to be a problem - that cultural revolution thing, you know

it may be just that we've had too much uncertainty for too long - that would explain the anxiety and it would also explain why people are buying into false hopes and long shots these days
posted by pyramid termite at 6:00 PM on March 16


I think I'm in a unique position with regards to the generational stuff, because I'm going to college with people who are much younger than I am. I've seen firsthand how different things were for people my age vs. how they are for people now.

I understand where people are coming from when they say "there's always been anxiety." I know because the whole reason I'm in school now, and not any sooner, is because I spent many years of my life dealing with totally crippling mental health issues, including serious generalized anxiety. So I really do get that.

But.

I've also seen really remarkable differences between how people my age or a little older are doing vs. my current university cohort. Job prospects are way shittier. When I was in high school, the conventional wisdom was still "you can get any BA and it will open doors for you." That is no longer the case. In the years between when I could have gone to college and when I finally did, that changed to be "you need a BA in your field, and probably an MA as well." Standards for even getting into college out of high school have changed dramatically. I remember when my friends were all applying and, oh boy, was it stressful. But I've seen what people in my college cohort had to do to get in, and it's insane. Things that were optional when I was in high school are now not so optional anymore. Tuition has gone way up. Loan rates have changed.

I've seen a lot of my friends go through the standard post-graduation blues, the quarterlife crisis, you name it. Yeah, it's always been there. But listen: it's worse now. I know that because I remember how things were for people then, and I can see how they are now. There's value in being able to say that people have always had to deal with anxiety about the future, but there's also value in being able to say that people in my college cohort have been dealt a shitty hand. They have no expectation that they'll be at the same job for more than a couple years. They have no expectation that they'll ever own a house. It's not that those are totally unique problems to this generation, it's that they're so much more widespread that people no longer even talk about they'll never get benefits or a retirement plan, because that's just a given.

Not to mention that we're acutely aware of how fucked the political situation in this country is. Global warming was something we were aware of before, but it seems like every day we're learning how much worse it is than we thought (climate scientists are committing suicide, people).

But of course I've also been grandfathered into generation snowflake. That's really the most cruel thing about all of this. You tell people how horrible your prospects are for the future and they'll say "well, buck up, sport, we grew up with the threat of nuclear war!" As if that affects you on the same level as not being able to move out of your tiny-ass apartment because rent in your city has tripled in the last three years. And the endless thinkpieces about how coddled today's college students are. We're just so anxious because we've always had our hands held, you see. Nothing external could be having an effect on this.

This stuff affects people of all ages, but there's some value in being able to recognize that things may be worse than they used to be in ways that affect people's lives directly: their ability to work, to own a house, to live a life without crushing student debt. Yeah, nuclear war sounds scary, but my grandfather was able to buy a house in a nice neighborhood on a teacher's salary. Me, I saw this post after literally spending half an hour staring at the wall thinking about what the hell I'm going to do when I graduate. I only have a few semesters left, and then I'm on the hook for tons of student loans. Anxiety is one thing, but this is real. This isn't a problem I've made up because I got participation trophies (but I never got participation trophies anyway).

Anyway, maybe I'm full of shit, but that's my (arguably) intergenerational perspective, anyway.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:02 PM on March 16 [29 favorites]


I wonder if social media compounds depressed feelings in all age groups.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/22/facebook-break-can-boost-wellbeing-study-suggests

https://www.theguardian.com/mental-health-research-matters/2017/jan/20/is-social-media-bad-for-young-peoples-mental-health
posted by M83 at 6:25 PM on March 16


i don't know if it's fair to compare generations, but it seems to me that the generation that went through the depression and ww2 had a lot to complain about, but didn't much - they just seemed to think "you just coped"

that always seemed too simplistic to me


Well, yeah. It's too simplistic because the people in that generation often came back and complained about the way America was plenty--it's just that they often came back and complained using the phrase "I fought for my country for this?" That generation of WWII vets ushered in some of the most powerful civil rights activism we've ever seen, in part because so many of those vets felt that the contrast between the way they were told to feel as soldiers and the way they were treated as Americans when they returned was painfully and hilariously stark.

It's not that no one was complaining. It was that the rhetoric was different, and it was that that generation had a powerful cultural and economic weapon in living memory which could be used to demand actual change. My generation, I think, is building up a weapon that I hope we will be using for something similar, if we all survive this.
posted by sciatrix at 7:45 PM on March 16 [6 favorites]


"you need a BA in your field, and probably an MA as well."

But the problem is that if you rack up THAT much debt, can you ever manage to get a job that will pay that much debt off?
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:12 PM on March 16


Man just throwing out that I graduated college in 1994 and owed $43k. I'm sure it's rapaciously worse now, but I was paying that shit off into my thirties.

It should be cheaper, not trying to morph into the Hunger Games within three generations.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:14 PM on March 16 [3 favorites]


there's relatively little support that can be mediated by people who are all themselves young and struggling and trying to juggle competing responsibilities

I was talking to a friend today about trying to round up a group for karaoke, then I remembered it was on Monday night, and who would want to go out late on a night where they have to work the next morning? I suddenly realized that out of about 30 LGBTQ people I know IRL, only 3 of them have anything approaching a normal 9-5 "career" job. Everyone's unemployed or underemployed. I'm 42. That's just bizarre to me.
posted by AFABulous at 9:04 AM on March 17 [4 favorites]


Man just throwing out that I graduated college in 1994 and owed $43k. I'm sure it's rapaciously worse now, but I was paying that shit off into my thirties.

I mean not to disregard the way heavy debt into one's 30s is a serious problem, but I would like to note that my brother, who graduated in 2009 with a BA and an MA from ***state schools***, will pay off his student loans when he is ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY TWO YEARS OLD.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:29 AM on March 17 [4 favorites]


I feel like older cohorts tend to see the types of problems faced by the millennials/GenY whatever and recognize them -- oh, hard to find a job, houses are expensive, college is expensive -- and do not see the way that these problems have become exponentially more intractable.

My older cousins (in their late forties at this point) grouse about how long it took them to afford to own a home. And it did take them long! A lot longer than their parents, who were all established homeowners by 20 or 21. They grouse about how their salaries have stagnated. And they have! At 60-70K per year. They grouse about how hard it is to find jobs -- and it is. It's hard for them to make any moves other than lateral.

And so when our youngest cousins (in their early 20s) complain of these things they say well suck it up, we got through it, we're in the same boat. But they don't see that the youngest cousins will never, ever own homes. They won't just have to scrimp and save until they're 35! They will scrimp and save and never have a damn thing to show for it. Their salaries are stagnated -- at 25 or 30K, and they will struggle to budge that number up (if my own experience, in the middle, is any indication) for a solid 15 years before they see any significant movement. IF they're lucky.

It's not a difference of kind, it's a difference of degree. The difference between difficult and impossible, between long shot and hopeless.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:36 AM on March 17 [17 favorites]


Maybe we could just scrap this whole idea of generational cohorts!

Mostly on board with this. I think generational cohorts really only make sense at a granular level. Here are a few that make sense to me :

* People who remember what life was like before the web
* People who remember what life was like before 9/11
* People who remember what life was like before smartphones
* People who got married before online dating was a thing
* People who graduated amidst the early 90s recession
* People who graduated amidst the 2001 tech crash
* People who graduated amidst the 2008-2009 financial crisis
* People who came of age in a dying rural town
* People who can barely afford to live in the city where they grew up

What you'll notice is that all of these refer to a specific event or situation. Furthermore, they overlap. There are no clear striations where you can say "everyone born within THESE years had THIS experience". Like, even if you came of age during the era of smartphones, that doesn't mean you could afford one. And just because you came of age after 9/11, that doesn't mean you were politically cognizant enough to care.

I would argue that the current conception of the "generation gap" entered the cultural lexicon as a way to describe the divide between baby boomers and their parents. I'm not sure if the concept of a "generation" was actually meaningful at that time, but it certainly isn't now.
posted by panama joe at 10:58 AM on March 18 [8 favorites]


even if you came of age during the era of smartphones, that doesn't mean you could afford one

basically yes. an infinity of thinkpieces pointing out the tendency to inaccurately read a particular class and ethnicity and income onto an entire age bracket has had little to no effect. likewise, yeah, sure, people my age who had nothing to worry about in the late 90s because money was free and living was easy, and also because we were in high school the whole time, sure it was super easy for us to buy houses, or dream of buying houses, which I have learned from this thread is just as good as actually doing it. but a cheap house still costs, you know, money. Some people don't have any!

anyway, being in your late 30s and houseless is better than being in your mid twenties and houseless, because the aged are not entitled to hope and have no need for luxury creature comforts, whereas the young and young-at-heart are and do. makes sense, I guess.

like Corb, I could claim to be Generation Y if I felt like it, with perfect accuracy, because of the overlapping boundary markers. when I was a youth I was not old enough and cool enough to count as gen x. but now I think I am in the luckiest of all generations since if I don't self-identify as gen Y nobody will ever realize I'm in it, so I will never have to grandstand about how I'm not like the rest of them. disowning your own generation to get approval from the one below it is the worst of generational behaviors and perhaps the only bad generational habit that gen Y does not take top honors in. good for them. I mean us. I mean them.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:46 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I just saw this headline: In 18 Years, A College Degree Could Cost About $500,000
posted by Room 641-A at 7:04 AM on March 19


I missed a really fine opportunity to trot out my hobby horse, didn't I?

Strauss and Howe had a decent idea, but as so many have noted here their generational scheme is too coarse to map very well to the shared cultural touchstones in people's actual thoughts and lives. The labels and periods used in Joshua Glenn's “Generations” are much more useful in my opinion.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:51 AM on March 19 [2 favorites]


Joshua Glenn's “Generations”

Not the point of the link, but I forgot that Billy Idol used to have such a baby face!

Every generational slice and dice says I'm GenX so I'm personally okay with that label.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:23 AM on March 19


I can't speak for anyone else but I got so much career advice as a young adult that was completely wrong. Go to a liberal arts school, they said. As long as you get good grades you'll get a good job, they said. You don't need a car, they said (limiting me to a tiny number of transit-accessible jobs). Of course I can't really blame them, the job market has changed so radically in the last 30 years that they didn't have great information either. And things did turn out OK. After about 7 years after college of being pretty poor I did manage to get a regular full-time non-crazy job. But I don't think anyone can blame us for having lingering anxiety problems.
posted by miyabo at 12:06 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]


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