10/31/2013 05:35 EDT | Updated 03/13/2014 05:59 EDT

The Decline of the Millennial Empire

By Neha Chandrachud


Deep in the heart of North America (the Internet), a new trend has emerged -- one that's even more pervasive than the recognizable #instagramselfie. Millions of eager twenty-somethings sit poised at their laptops, each prepared to deliver the final frontier of insight into the only thing that matters: Themselves. 24 Things Millennials Can't Live Without (excessive praise, craft beer, TOMS). 33 Things Millennials Can't Stand! (waiting in line, homophobia, gluten), Millennials: Why Do They Bike?! If you've found your media feed filled with these cringe-worthy articles, you're not alone. The discussion centering around millennials has become so ridiculous, it's about to collapse into an ironic black hole of self-obsession.

These articles that we're devouring celebrate a false culture -- one that's characterized by sweeping generalizations and empty consumer habits (#pumpkinspiceforever). The problem is that we don't just read these lists -- we internalize their characterizations. And slowly, we find ourselves not only nodding along to, but celebrating a culture that isn't necessarily ours. We perpetuate a cycle we don't even understand with our viewership and interaction.

And while this all may seem relatively harmless, it isn't. Our incessant self-discussion opens us up to easy manipulation by the media and advertisers. Boiling ourselves down into a list isn't insightful, it's dangerous. We make it too easy to be studied, itemized and commodified. Don Draper doesn't need to spend time figuring us out. We're all too happy to do that for him free of charge.

Is it troubling to feel that we've lost control of our own conversation? It should be. But the belief that the discussion surrounding millennials has somehow been hijacked by the media is naïve and ultimately wrong. Guess who's actually to blame for perpetuating this faux twenty-something culture? It's us! Framing the millennial discussion as an elaborate war waged against youth culture is easy. What takes guts is admitting the role we play in it.

While it seems there's little we can do to influence a cycle that's already so embedded in our media consumption, we are hardly powerless. The next time you see another redundant Elite Daily article about how being a "twenty-something" is synonymous with casual drug use and undergoing a yearly identity crisis, roll your eyes and hit next. Even if an article looks enticing, refuse to contribute to its site traffic and ad profits. We need to wake up and stop being a bystander in this generation's cultural devaluation.

"17 Ways Millennials Participated In Their Own Cultural Genocide" that's an article we'd actually read on Thought Catalog.