There will, to some extent, always be a degree of separation between two generations. It is nearly impossible to take a large group of people with experiences and schemas framed in two entirely different, and oftentimes opposing timeframes and tell them to relate to each other without a degree of conflict on either side. People who have been shaped by such inherently different experiences can be expected to interact successfully yes, but to fully understand each other—that’s another story.
The latest and possibly most ill-advised iteration of the generation gap at play is the charming hashtag #HowToConfuseAMillenial which has been trending on social media sites like Twitter in the past couple of months. Basically what it boils down to is a bunch of older people yelling nonsense at a bunch of younger people who then yell back—the internet in all its glory. The running joke seems to be the old “kids these days don’t know how to exist without technology” trope, with tweets within the hashtag ranging in idiocy from suggesting that a millennial wouldn’t know how to fill out a paper job application (so like exactly how you fill one out online, but with a pen???) to suggesting that millennials don’t know how to be social without the aid of social media (damn what am I playing at, using my phone to organize a day and time to meet up with people to have drinks in a bar? What a slave to Facebook I am.)
The hashtag, to a lesser extent, also targets the legitimacy of modern artists and musical styles. Unsurprisingly, electronic music seems to be a popular target. Some tweets within the hashtag insinuate that millennial music, like millennial culture in general, is based almost entirely on electronic media. Accusations of song writing computers, lead singers that cannot exist independent of auto tune, and “musicians” whose only discernable talent is the ability to push buttons from behind a computer screen rank among the most common criticisms of EDM, a genre which has largely found its footing and a consistent fan base within millennial pop culture.
What such tweets focus on are the perceived differences between the music of them and us—and where there is difference, there must inherently also be superiority and inferiority. Unsurprisingly, a person born of a certain generation will be most likely to consider their own music as superior to the cherished bass drops and wubs of another generation currently controlled by the youth. What #HowToConfuseAMillenial fails to realize however, is that every generation—Baby Boomers included—were at one point in the unsavory position of not being taken seriously that millennials now occupy. EDM is not some new and unique phenomenon being mocked, its validity as a musical genre thrown into question, because of what it is, what artists make up its core community, or even how it sounds. It is being thrown to the hashtagging, generational wolves hypocritically complaining about our social media obsession using social media because it represents something larger and far more disturbing—the ever-creeping antiquity of the past generation’s own beloved music and culture.
Kids in the ’80s were being mocked for their supposed enslavement to Atari and comic books. Kids in the sixties were put down by their parents for their “radical” and “idealistic” political views. Kids that grew up during the dawn of television were put down for being screen junkies, and the kids before them who were born when radio first made it big were similarly dismissed for their devotion to radio programs their parents no doubt considered a waste of time. Hell, kids that grew up just after the dawn of electricity were probably made fun of by their parents for their dependence on a luxury mom and dad never relied on. And so on and so forth until we get to cave mothers and fathers scolding their children for not appreciating the fact that they grew up with fire. Or tools. Or agriculture. Or whatever cave people argue over. And I’m sure that inevitably a significant portion of my generation will one day mock our own children for being too involved in whatever Tron-reminiscent holographic virtual reality games they deign to obsess over. It happens. It has happened. But the important thing to realize is that every single generation is, at some point, considered frivolous, grotesquely optimistic, and disassociated with the “reality” the older generation claims to be master of.
It’s okay to be, to some extent, stuck in the ways your generation afforded you, but when your generational pride becomes a dismissal of an entire age group, a line has been crossed and we veer towards ageism. Our generation’s music, trends, and collective social and political outlook are no less valid than those of the prior generation just because those trends do not happen to coincide.