Entitled

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 My generation has many labels. Millennial. Generation Y. The Internet Generation. ​While not

particularly creative or descriptive, these monikers at least fare better than my favorite (worst) sobriquet: 

The Entitled Generation. 

As if our parents all collectively woke up one day, sipped on their morning mugs of coffee, turned to us and said, 

“Be good at school today, learn as much as you can, and oh, by the way, the world owes you something. Expect it to be bountiful, and handed to you with zero effort on your part.”

This fanciful mindset is one we are assumed to embody, by our bosses, co-workers, media owners, war veterans, authors, and most of the South. ​We’re spoiled brats, we’re told; lazy, disdainful, and selfish younglings who wouldn’t know what an honest day’s work looked like if it smacked us in the face. 

This is, of course, absurd. And, attempting to have a sense of humor about it, it strikes me as hilarious. If it’s not to you, it should be. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Well, most of it couldn’t be further from the truth; they did hit the nail square on the head with regard to one thing: We are ​entitled.

Not in the way that denotes someone who feels they are owed something. Quite the contrary, most of us recognize that we are the ones who owe; we owe the planet, we owe our mentors, and we (quite literally) owe massive amounts of debt. But paying a debt is not deference. It’s not blind allegiance. And it doesn’t come without questioning and critical thought. 

What we feel entitled to is a better world. And the thing is, we can see it, clearer and with broader scope than anyone before us, because all we know is the entire world, in real time. We can pick up an iPad and look at tweets from a protest in Iran; search Google for the answer to literally any question we can think of, and probably find it; write a book, or a blog, or a song, or shoot a music video, or make a film, or build a business, or create an app, or pen an article about how we’re sick of other generations belittling our worth and contributions, and then we can publish it ourselves. Instantly. This has been our life since we were little. It’s what we know. We know shortcuts, we know hacks, we know how to ask better questions, run better searches, and how to get to the real root of a problem. And we know the rest of the world can work that way.

We’re entitled to that world, the world we deserve, the world everyone deserves, and we know ​we can make it. We can make it faster, better, more detailed, and with less effort than those before us or above us. And they know it. And it scares the shit out of them. Let it. It forces them to examine how obsolete their methods and thinking have become. That will continue to happen, and one day, very soon, we’ll take our place in the captain’s chair. And we will manage it better. And with less effort. And with more dignity.

Entitled? ​

You’re goddamn right we are. Thanks for noticing.

 

My hilarious attempt to keep the New York Times in business

nytimesdelivery

We all know that the newspaper industry has fallen on hard times as of late: Ad revenues are down, subscription rates are plummeting to record lows, ​publishers are closing up shop left and right; even the ones that are still in business are severely trimming their personnel and overhead. We’re told that all of this is happening due to the consequences of living in the New Digital Age: back when the Internet really started to take off as a platform for content consumption, publishers initially allowed all of their content to be viewed online for free, as a way to drum up readership and popularity. Eventually, though, that online readership would overtake physical subscriptions as the chief means of getting one’s news fix, which disrupted a number of paradigms. Online ad revenue wasn’t worth as much, users were posting and sharing articles without permission, and worst of all, no one was on board with the idea of paying to read anything anymore.

Some might say that’s actually a good thing, that everyone should have access to information as freely as possible. That’s a commendable idea in theory, however it creates a huge problem for newspapers as a business model– where’s the money going to come from?

Knowing this, and being a person who likes to “vote with their money,” as they say, I was determined to do my part to make sure quality journalism still had a (paid) place in this world. I decided to get a subscription to the Saturday and Sunday New York Times. Not a huge investment, I know, but I figured every little bit helps. Besides, I mused, if I tell enough of my hipster friends in Brooklyn about my newfound antiquated hobby, maybe reading newspapers will become “cool” again. I would spark a crusade to save publishing as we know it.

Brimming with self-satisfied pride at my wonderful idea, I (ironically, in hindsight) went online and ordered the Weekend Times, or “The Weekender” as the ads like to promote it. ​It was early March, 2013, and the confirmation email I received informed me that my first paper would arrive the next weekend (how prompt!)– specifically, the 16th of March. Here is a journal of what transpired.

Saturday, March 16: No paper delivered. Figured it was a fluke, assumed Sunday’s edition would be there.​ Excitement still palpable.

Sunday, March 17: ​No paper delivered. Wondered if they had the wrong address or something. Called customer service, received a refund on that week’s deliveries. Was asked if my building was locked/allowed access, assured them that the front door to the building was unlocked. Confirmed delivery would take place next weekend.

Saturday, March 23: No paper delivered. Called customer service again, they looked in the notes, told me they would speak with “Dispatch” to make sure deliveries came.​ Started to wonder if paper was coming, but being stolen by another resident. I am, after all, a late riser.

Sunday, March 24: Got up early. No paper delivered. Called, received a refund on this week’s deliveries. Again asked if the delivery person had access to the building. Like 89% of New Yorkers, I live in an apartment complex with an unlocked outer door, and a locked interior security door. The area in-between (the “airlock”) is where papers get left, I explain. Was told that sounded fine, no reason for papers not being delivered, was assured delivery next weekend. Excitement no longer palpable.

Saturday/Sunday, March 30/31: Out of town for a wedding, but a friend is coming into town and staying at my place. ​Asked her if she could grab the papers if she sees them. Return home, no papers. Maybe she read and recycled them. Checked. Nope. Called friend. Did you see any newspaper deliveries while you were here? No, she replies. Called customer service, received a refund, asked more than once by a few different agents whether I lived in a locked building. No. I don’t. I promise. Was told that they were sending an email to the “Dispatch Manager” to make sure this gets resolved, and they’re going to put an address label on the paper.

Tuesday, April 2: Convinced myself they’re being taken by another resident. Asked building manager if I could check security footage to see if papers are being abducted. He obliged. They’re not. Faith in my fellow tenants restored. Faith in the New York Times diminishing.

Saturday/Sunday, April 6/7: No papers delivered. Called. Refunded. Asked if I live in a locked building. Laughed and nearly hung up. Did not hang up. Placated with assurances. ​

Saturday, April 13: Success! A paper was waiting for me as I went off to work Saturday afternoon. Had an address label on it. For the right apartment. I figure the arduous process is over– some giant hiccup has been cleared away, whatever it could have been, and the Times will flow like milk and honey.

Sunday, April 14: Another paper! A full weekend delivered. Very impressed. Wondered why I was impressed. Excitement has returned in some measure.

Saturday, April 20: No paper delivered. Figured it’s got to be a joke at this point. It’s not. Called. Refunded. Assured.​

Sunday, April 21: Paper delivered. Hmm.​ Maybe they were out of yesterday’s edition. Laughed at my attempt to reason.

Saturday, April 27: No paper delivered. No call. No attempt. No assurance. Possibly the penultimate straw.​

Sunday, April 28: Paper delivered. ​No longer matters. Call customer service. Refunded for Saturday. Asked to speak to the “Resolution Department.” On hold for five minutes. Got in touch with a “supervisor.” Had them look in the notes. Was told that they would send an urgent message to “Dispatch.” Explained that that had already happened at least three times. “Well, we can try putting an address label on it. Do you live in a locked building?”

Cancelled subscription to the Times Weekender.​

It is absolutely feasible that my particular experience described above was unique. Well, it’s possible, anyway. But it certainly makes me wonder: maybe the Internet isn’t the reason for the downfall of the newspaper industry after all?

Why today’s marketing is like Kryptonite to Millennials (and what to do about it)

enterprise

I was on the subway this morning when, between sips of life-giving coffee, I glanced up to see a poster for Enterprise’s new car-sharing service. Whether or not it’s a good idea for them to try to compete with Zipcar in New York City is an interesting conversation, but that’s not what I was focused on. Something on the poster was nagging at me: “The New Standard In Car Sharing.” It made me twitch, and I couldn’t figure out why. And then it hit me, after all these years, why so many ads out there make me boil with anger:

If a person is inclined to look at the world through the lens of critical thinking, then pretty much all marketing is Kryptonite.

By critical thinking I mean reason, logic, objective proof, and the simple idea that if you make a statement, you have to back it up with evidence if you want to be taken seriously. Now obviously the advertising game has always been the land of Let’s See What We Can Get Away With, and I knew that. But I finally understood for the first time why it bothered me, and others like me, to the point of visible irritation. How exactly is Enterprise “The New Standard” in car sharing? Is there a study to back that up? I mean, they’re certainly new. And they do offer car-sharing. But that’s really all that can be objectively said about the service. It could be crap. It could also be amazing– but until they give me an actual reason to believe that they are the “Standard-Bearer,” I’m going to laugh at their subway ad and probably not take them very seriously.

To be fair, some brands do back up their statements with numbers– myriad luxury car commercials come to mind–although the numbers likely only tell part of the story. But even that is okay because my searching mind at least has something to grasp on to, to point to and say, Oh. Well at least Car & Driver really did name it the Best Luxury Sedan In Its Class. 

I’m sure not everyone is like me. Some nice old lady from Greenpoint will probably look at that ad and think, “Oh! Enterprise offers car-sharing now, and according to this they must be the best.” Even if it’s unconscious, if the claim is never questioned, brands just get to proclaim whatever they want (as long as the wording is carefully crafted). And that should change. Because I know there are other people like me out there (I’m a Millennial and can use the Internet), and I’m fairly sure the reaction Enterprise was going for wasn’t nausea.

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