When I returned to Canada in 2013 after living in China for 8 years, one of the first things I noticed was that younger people (aka “Millennials”) were acting strange. I couldn’t put my finger on it – talking to them just seemed weird. And it wasn’t just Millennials. To a lesser extent, older people I knew, those who never left Canada (or even their home province, for that matter), were also acting strange. My first thought was that they seemed whiney, as in – they whined a lot. In addition to this whininess, the younger ones were wildly confident – almost in a delusional kind of way.
I’ve asked foreigners living in Canada, mostly Asians females, about their opinions on the behavior of younger people here, particularly the behaviour of Canadian females below the age of 30. I had one Korean girl describe them as having a “strange confidence” and she did not know where their “strange confidence came from.”
I later learned that this behavior is called “entitlement.” Ok, so someone has put a label on this type of behavior, that’s a start. But I was more curious as to where this behavior came from. I don’t remember Canadians behaving this way back when I was in University, back in 2004.
Then I started putting the dots together and realized that in 2004 social media was in its early stages. Facebook had just begun in California, but wasn’t yet widely adopted anywhere else yet, especially not in Canada. There was also no YouTube, no Twitter, no Instagram. There was barely any blogs. There was Google, and Google Ads, but not many web pages. (Side note: In fact, around this time, the early 2000s, was the golden age for bloggers and Google ad money. There were many people using the Internet and searching for stuff, but still not that many web pages existed on the internet. So anyone who ran a blog with even marginally good content could make a lot of money, sometimes over $10,000 a month in Google Ad money, as along as they had a lot of content).
So when I left Canada early 2005, social media and blogs, were in the early stages. Most people didn’t even know what they were. But when I returned to Canada, all of these things were in full force. Incidentally, these same service – Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, blogging platforms – they were all block in China. Yes, you could access them with a VPN, but it was so slow that it was almost not worth it. So I was totally out of the social media loop.
So one of the major differences between Canada in 2004 versus Canada in 2013-present – is social media and blogs, giving everyone and their dog a voice on the internet. Could there be a connection between this entitlement behavior and social media?
I recently read Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. He believes social media and technology have “enabled people’s sense of entitlement” and says this:
“Numerous professors and educators have noted a lack of emotional resilience and an excess of selfish demands in today’s young people. It’s not uncommon now for books to be removed from a class’s curriculum for no other reason than that they made someone feel bad. Speakers and professors are shouted down and banned from campuses for infractions as simple as suggesting that maybe some Halloween costumes really aren’t that offensive. School counselors note that more students than ever are exhibiting severe signs of emotional distress over what are otherwise run-of-the-mill daily college experiences, such as an argument with a roommate, or getting a low grade in a class.
It’s strange that in an age when we are more connected than ever, entitlement seems to be at an all-time high. Something about recent technology seems to allow our insecurities to run amok like never before. The more freedom we’re given to express ourselves, the more we want to be free of having to deal with anyone who may disagree with us or upset us. The more exposed we are to opposing viewpoints, the more we seem to get upset that those other viewpoints exist. The easier and more problem-free our lives become, the more we seem to feel entitled for them to get even better.
The benefits of the Internet and social media are unquestionably fantastic. In many ways, this is the best time in history to be alive. But perhaps these technologies are having some unintended social side effects. Perhaps these same technologies that have liberated and educated so many are simultaneously enabling people’s sense of entitlement more than ever before.”
So what’s the solution? How do we get younger people to not act like entitled fucks and get them to stop whining? Ship them to Africa for a year? Bring back spanking? Punch them in the face?
By the way, have you ever talked to someone who’s been punched in the face before? I have. They are pretty chilled out, a kind of person you don’t mind hanging around.