The M Word: Lazy Little Punks

BreakingModern — Sloth is a sin. Biblically, speaking, I mean. But laying around in sweatpants watching Broad City doesn’t exactly feel like a Hell-worthy activity. Yet the capital vice gets associated with my generation, the seemingly too-young-to-care Millennials, quite frequently.

Lazy Millennials

“Y’all are lazy.” Yeah, I’ve heard. Merriam-Webster defines lazy as: “Not liking to work hard or be active.”

Now the truth of the matter, as with all overt stereotypes, is that some individuals are totally lazy. And other individuals are the hardest working pack of wolves you’ve ever seen. So let’s agree from the onset that an entire generation cannot be lazy.

I want to delve a bit deeper, though. My girlfriend and I were talking about Millennial stereotypes, about what we’re called (but not really us, you know) to our faces by our bosses, by our elders, by the media. We got to thinking and, it turns out, we could not name a single lazy Millennial-aged person we know.

The 26-year-old inner-city schoolteacher? Not lazy. The solar-powered San Franciscan? Working every single day. The graphic designer, the nanny, the nurse or the park ranger? Activity, progress and moneymaking prowess.

How is it that when looked at as a whole, the generation becomes lazy, but individuals (at least the individuals I know) are anything but?

Generation Lazy

People tend to concede Millennials are “lazy,” but they often provide specific reasons that justify such a lifestyle. The three most common reasons for our supposed laziness are:

  1. Every generation calls the next generation lazy, incompetent and generally worse at life.
  2. We’re young yet. And young people are lazy.
  3. The Great Recession, man, can’t work if you wanted to!

Of the first point, Allison Linn on said,

“The Baby Boomers were considered so spoiled and self-absorbed that the writer Tom Wolfe dubbed the 1970s the ‘Me Decade.’ Then came Generation X, which was considered to have so little interest in working hard that they were called ‘slackers.'”

So, yes, it’s stereotypically true that older generations find fault in their younger counterparts.

YouGov took it a step further with a poll. They found that “the majority (69 percent) of people think that adults younger than 30 do have a different work ethic to older Americans.” “Different” here means less effective, less progress oriented and, in a word, lazier.

If each generation is disappointing to the last, the point sort of becomes moot. And, to be clear, that is a rationalization of Millennial laziness, not a point refuting the label. So what about us just being young?

“From my standpoint, it’s not a generational thing. It’s actually a stage of life issue,” said Patrick Wright, business professor at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.

While I appreciate the distinction of laziness not being an inherent issue with my generation, I bristle pretty quickly at the assumption that all young people are lazy, or have a “stage of life issue.” Young people, those in high school, college, just graduated or starting work in a field, certainly have a different perspective than their bosses.

Lazy millennial surfer

But that doesn’t mean there’s an “issue.” In college I might have tried harder in a few classes. The same could be said for your boss and a couple days of work. After college I could have dove right into a moneymaking field. Instead I took a year and half to make rent, surf and soak up the sun.

Is that laziness? Or is that knowledge about what life’s path brings? I deemed I needed those things in my life, and if you need something, and you work to put yourself in a place to get that something, that’s called progress. Purposeful progress, with any final destination, seems like the opposite of laziness to me.

Then there’s the Great Recession.

Taylor Tepper in Time magazine said,

“Millennials graduated college in the teeth of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. While people of all ages felt its impact, Millennials were a little more vulnerable — if not economically, then psychologically — than other groups.”

He says that Millennials have less income, fewer jobs and more debt than any of their generational predecessors. His argument is also against the Millennial label of “lazy,” as are many other articles, but I worry that most of these sentiments are justifications for the generation’s apparent nature and do not actually address the incorrectness of the sloth-like term that people put upon us.

I rarely see evidence of laziness. Things might be mistaken for laziness — like the Millennial constantly engaged with her phone. The smartphone era could induce laziness, but it might also accomplish its purpose: to streamline work. That app-laden Millennial could be branding, building up a string of followers and connections that enable him to succeed in this rapidly changing social world.

So instead of justifying why Millennials are lazy, which automatically assumes they are without actually giving credence to that label, let’s take a step back. Let’s look at some Millennials who might stand for the rest of us.

Mark Zuckerberg, the Millennial King. He’s 30, he’s a billionaire, he dropped out of college. He could have sold his kingdom and lived forever in a sea of oscillating objects, but he didn’t. He kept shipping. He decided to keep changing the world when it would have been easier to hand off the reigns to a Generation Whatever workhorse.

Lazy Millennials seth rogen

Or Seth Rogen. The guy literally known for embodying the lazy-ass, stoned Millennial who does nothing but sit on the couch and watch Nova all day. He’s 32 and has been in 36 feature films. That’s more than one a year if he started the day he was born. He could stop at any point, but he doesn’t. Acting may not be considered the most grueling of careers, but it’s still work. It’s being active.

Or Bassnectar, a.k.a Lorin Ashton. Whatever you think of his music (I love “Mesmerizing the Ultra”), the guy (36) releases an album every two years, endless remixes, singles and collaborative projects. And he tours non-stop. Like, three out of four weeks every month for the last six years non-stop. His rise to EDM fame lies partly in his beats, and partly in his work ethic. Hit every city, go hard and talk non-stop with your fans. That’s work! It’s real hard work that is driven by passion, arguably the most noble of pursuits.

We aren’t all perfect workers. We aren’t all lazy slobs. We aren’t all anything. But this whole “lazy” label is unwarranted.

For BMod, I’m Daniel Zweier.

First Image: I feel like Mogley from Jungle Book” by ClickFlashPhotos via Flickr Creative Commons

Second Image/Cover Art: Surfboard Guy” by Dan Phiffer via Flickr Creative Commons

Third Image: “Seth Rogen” by lindseo via Flickr Creative Commons

Daniel Zweier

Author: Daniel Zweier

Based in Oakland, Daniel Zweier covers culture, travel and tech here at BreakingModern. Follow him on Twitter @dbzweier and on G+ at +DanielZweier

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