Whenever you hear the term “millennial” what comes to mind? Is it a smart, technologically savvy young entrepreneur? Or an arrogant and inconsiderate cheapskate? Some see millennials through the second filter—a pompous generation with a bad reputation of expecting everything to come easily, and complaining if it doesn’t. Millennials, as defined by the Pew Research Center, are those born between 1982 and 2004. Millennials are more likely to post on social media, illegally download content and, strangely enough, combine the two. While many millennials are hard workers with good ideas, an increasing epidemic of Internet piracy and in-store shoplifting have become all too common. Millennials’ bad reputation is in part due to their chronic Entitlementia.
What Is Entitlementia?
Entitlementia is a term coined by Garrett Sutton in his book, Toxic Client: Knowing and Avoiding The Problem Customer. The term Entitlementia, as Sutton explains, is “the dementia caused by a prolonged sense of entitlement.” The clouding of empathy can be found in some millennials today, causing them to expect more and pay less, or nothing at all.
One aspect of Entitlementia readily apparent in toxic teens and older millennials is pirating movies, music, and other media from the Internet. Studies show that 1 in 4 teenagers have illegally downloaded movies or television shows from the Internet for free. Commentators say that some teenagers think the prices to pay for movies, music, and other media are too high.
A study asked 6,000 people what they would pay for movies. Over 70% claimed that they would pay either $0-$2 for movies with only 5% saying that they would pay $10.With the ease of streaming or downloading media for free, teenagers have developed a sense of entitlement, and question why they should purchase media that seems overpriced to them. This clouds teens’ judgment and leads them to think, “Why should I have to pay for media when I can download it for free off of the Internet?”
An even more concerning fact is that most teenagers are unaware of the economic loss that piracy places on owners and creators. In another piracy study, only 8% of the teenagers interviewed claimed that they thought that pirating music was morally wrong.This entitlement to free media through piracy has worsened their reputation among other generations, and certainly among creators trying to make a living.
Though theft from stores has always been a problem, commentators question if millennials tend to steal more than other generations. In a study conducted by The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), 89% of kids say they know other kids who shoplift. Among them, 66% say they hang out with those kids. This statistic shows that it isn’t uncommon among kids to have a friend who steals. Will this influence cause more teens to think that stealing isn’t immoral and possibly lead them to participate?
A trend called “lifting” is evident on the social media site Tumblr. Teens will post tips on how to steal from large businesses, tricks they use to steal, and “hauls” in which they take photos of the products they stole.
One avid lifter justified her shoplifting by placing the blame on the high standards that society puts on women. If she has to deal with these types of pressures, such as being thin and wearing the nicest clothes, then she shouldn’t have to pay for them. This is another example of millennials feeling that they are entitled to free things.
The justifications for lifting are due to standards that are out of their control, which make this group of teens feel less empowered and more entitled. The reasoning behind lifting further proves that some millennials have developed outrageous ideas on what they deserve. Rather than working and earning money to buy the items they wish, this particular segment find it justifiable to steal from others instead.
Is Social Media To Blame?
Psychology experts are often asked whether these trends are due to social media and the Internet playing too big a part in teenagers’ lives. The question is: has excessive social media exposure caused teens to be more entitled and image conscious? While some are bragging over what they stole from Sephora this weekend, or simply showing how great their outfit is today, some millennials are posting every detail of their lives on the web. The glorification of their lives through social media is thought to be leading millennials to become more narcissistic and entitled. Is the pressure to glorify their lives just another factor leading to Entitlementia?
In modern times, everyone is more connected through the usage of Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites. Thinking that millennials are entitled and arrogant could just be the overgeneralizations of other generations. After all, the baby boomer generation was also known infamously as “The Me Generation.” Perhaps the older generation has forgotten how they acted when they were the younger generation.
Benefits of Millennials in the Workplace
Although these self-centered teen actions are certainly negative, they ironically may lead to benefits in the workplace. Millennials tend to think of themselves as special, this often results in greater confidence. With many considering their ideas important, more millennials are voicing their opinions in business decisions and other aspects in the workplace. Millennials are also more likely to put their own ideas for a product or business forth, causing millennials to be more entrepreneurial than other generations.
Social media may be detrimental to teens and older millennials, but the constant use of the Internet has led most of them to be technologically savvy.
Growing up surrounded by technology and being willing to learn and keep up with new technology has millennials taking more jobs and being more competent in technology fields.
However, Entitlementia continues to affect millennials today. Stealing items from the store and bragging about it on the Internet is not only brazen—one could still get caught—but it also reveals a clouded judgment and lack of ethics. These toxic and illegal trends only further teenagers’ entitlement to free products. A growing Entitlementia causes teens to feel justified to free downloads or to think that stealing items from “big evil corporations” is justified. Of course, stealing from big corporations is also stealing from individual shareholders, many of them retired on fixed incomes. In their entitlement haze, it seems this connection is never made.
There certainly are a large amount of millennials who contribute a great deal to society with their innovation, motivation and hard work. However, Entitlementia has certain millennials becoming more focused on benefitting themselves and less on their impact on others, which perpetuates the negative stereotypes of millennials. Some justify that shoplifting is okay because they need an easy way to cope with society’s standards. However, they do this without realizing that they are stealing from individuals who rely on those sales. Certain millennials excuse pirating movies and other media online because they don’t want to pay for work that seems overpriced, without understanding that many people spent countless hours creating those projects.
Entitlementia causes individuals to become inconsiderate to those who inconvenience them with having to pay or work for goods. Commentators ask if this arrogant attitude is to be blamed on social media. However, the better question for debate is what will the future look like if these toxic teens do not learn to become empathetic and considerate? Will the marriage of Entitlementia and millennials carry on into the future? Even more troubling, will we have the same articles and complaints being written about future “Generation Me’s?”
Emily Sutton is in the Class of 2020 at Santa Clara University. She wrote this article while she was an intern at Nerd Power Media LLC.