We’ve all experienced some variation of a frame of reference embarrassment. A classmate, professor or friend makes a remark about a person or event that is unbeknownst to you, at which point you laugh nervously, acting as if the reference was obvious. Personally, I always question whether or not it is worth it to ask for an explanation, fearful I may be denounced as another clueless Millennial.
It’s natural to feel uneasy when we’re not accustomed with references thrown at us; we want to feel on par with those surrounding us. What’s not natural is having a quarter-life crisis because of the reprimanding comments given when we don’t recall a past event.
With many other negative connotations that come with being a Millennial, also present is the notion that when information is unknown to a certain person, the entire generation, not the individual, is to blame. Assumptions that Millennials are far too consumed with technology, and not enough with the outside world, is commonplace.
However, not knowing the name Ezra Pound doesn’t correlate with stupidity; it’s merely a matter of different frames of reference. For an additional example, take a moment to look at The Beatle's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. I assume almost anyone on earth could identify The Beatles, but most people young or old probably couldn't identify every character on the cover. Does that make any of us any less clued-in to popular culture? Not really. You can't expect anyone to know that the lady on the right isn't Marilyn Monroe, but rather Diana Dors. That would just be ridiculous. But that is often how older generations react when we don't know all their favorites 1950s movies: "Gasp! How could you not know!"
Far too often, Millennials are perplexingly congratulated by elders for references they do understand and wrongly reprimanded for references they don’t. I shouldn’t be made to feel special for knowing who Bruce Springsteen is, and those who don’t shouldn’t be reprimanded. We all grow up with different frames of reference which are influenced by our generation, traditions, and culture. It shouldn’t come as a shock when tidbits of information are or aren’t recognized.
It is not only important, but also appreciated when even the most seemingly obvious piece of information is not assumed. One of my professors once asked our class if everyone knew the tune to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Though this is a seemingly unnecessary question to many, it is undoubtedly appreciated among those who didn’t grow up with “The Star-Spangled Banner” in their frame of reference.
At the same time, many older generations forget that we are quite familiar with popular things of past generations. Far too often, I see photos on various social media sites asking users to “like” or “retweet” if you remember a certain invention. It’s a paper cutter, Facebook, and I’m pretty sure schools still use them today.
Not surprisingly, our frames of reference also incorporate technology more than those of older generations. Admittedly, I understand the concern with our technology-obsessed generation, but it gets a little too repetitive when I receive a reprimanding comment from an adult every time I’m on my phone in public.
Last summer, while in Rockwood, Maine, I was reading the news via phone at which point a 70-year-old man instructed me to jump in the lake for using my phone on a sunny day. I was reprimanded for being unsocial. Shouldn't reading a real newspaper have the same repercussions?
Millennials aren’t as clueless as they are often made out to be. We do happen to know who The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac are; we needn’t be treated like oblivious 5-year-olds. At the same time, if a comment isn’t understood it merely means we have different frames of reference.