(parenthetical)


On things briefly and in general

But first, what besides youth sets millennials apart from their elders — the wizened silent generation, the graying boomers, the midlife Gen-X’ers?

The usual answer seems to be “narcissism” — self-absorption indulged to comical extremes. We all can recite the evidence: the breathlessly updated Facebook profile, the cascade of selfies, the Kardashians.

Millennials know this litany, too. “People have been calling me a narcissist since I was 3,” says Hannah, the character Lena Dunham plays in “Girls,” her comedy of millennial manners. It’s a small joke on Hannah but a bigger one on the anxious, hovering adults who supplied the clucking soundtrack when she was growing up.

But a very different picture of millennials emerges from what may be the most illuminating literary project of our era, the Pew Research Center’s sequence of reports on millennials. The 2010 edition, subtitled “Confident. Connected. Open to Change,” offered an X-ray of its first wave, the “roughly 50 million millennials who currently span the ages of 18 to 29.”

What Pew found was not an entitled generation but a complex and introspective one — with a far higher proportion of nonwhites than its predecessors as well as a greater number of people raised by a single parent. Its members also have weathered many large public traumas: the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, costly (and unresolved) wars, the Great Recession. Add to those the flood of images of Iraq and Katrina (and, for older millennials, Oklahoma City and Columbine) — episodes lived and relived, played and replayed, on TV and computer screens.

For a generation digitally wired from childhood, and reared on apocalyptic videos and computer-generated movie epics, not to mention the exploits of hackers, these events showed the real world to be as tightly networked, and for that reason as easily disrupted as the virtual one, even as the grown-ups in charge, the guardians of order, seemed overwhelmed and over matched, always a step behind.

It is no surprise, as Pew reported, that the millennial generation is skeptical of institutions — political and religious — and prefers to improvise solutions to the challenges of the moment. It is one thing to own a smartphone, as so many of us do. It is quite another to have mastered its uses at age 10.

Thus, in a range of areas, millennials have not only caught up, but have jumped out in front.

Generation Nice, via NYT

The importance of line width, character count, and kerning in title text.

The importance of line width, character count, and kerning in title text.

By the wolf tree on Placentia Island.  (at Placentia island)

By the wolf tree on Placentia Island. (at Placentia island)