In the old days, if a newspaper ran an article some people didn't like, those people would write aggrieved letters to the editor. But that's so 20th century. So when The New York Times Magazine ran a cover story in August asking why it was taking twentysomethings so long to grow up, it didn't take those twentysomethings long to spring into action.
A group of them fired up their Gchat windows and coordinated a social media campaign via Twitter and Facebook. Within a month, they had launched their response to the Times article with an online publication they dubbed Millennials Magazine. The tagline: "LOL DOES NOT LACK SINCERITY."
While the Times portrayed the Millennials as hapless, jobless lollygaggers, the editors of the magazine wanted to be more nuanced. Issue one included a short story about a school shooting, as well as cultural criticism about the seminal television series The O.C., whether the character of Hermione in Harry Potter might actually be black, and the significance of the terrible AOL screen names the Millennials had chosen in their reckless youth: Ballrpimp, sparklypinkbunny28, Guitarlolita69. (The AOL chatroom, after all, was a definitive Millennial experience, just as punk rock was to their parents.)
The magazine's 21-year-old founder, Kyle Chayka, is a recent college grad who majored in art history and international relations. He just moved back into his parents' house and works for an arts blog based in New York. What was frustrating about the Times story, he says, was that it chose "to essentialize the entire generation as afflicted with these similar problems of being raised by their parents to expect too much."
To open up the conversation, the editors solicited different definitions of "millennial" on their slick, attractively designed website. (Chayka said they wanted it to "speak the language of the Internet.") The responses were sometimes dramatic ("Lost my childhood the days the towers fell"), tongue-in-cheek ("we can haz identity?"), zeitgeisty ("We can tell who doesn't have a job by whose Facebook photos are hidden"), and sardonic ( "The only generation that could read a crap NYTM cover story and think 'personal branding opportunity'"). "The sarcasm or cynicism speaks to a deeper instability that we feel, which I think is a very serious topic," Chayka says.
Issue two of the magazine, "Modern Love," is due out in mid-December.
Full disclosure: The author was born in 1986 and does not have a job.