The term ‘The Lost Generation’ has been used to refer to those that came of age during World War One. Those that survived the horrors of this global event would be characterised by their ‘disoriented, wandering and directionless’ attitude to life. Lost in a sea of booze, remorse, regret, and anger at the society they lived in, they would later be characterized by their wild parties and artistic output, which would reflect the meaninglessness of war and life itself.
Today, the Millennial Generation might be described through similar terms. While the circumstances of their hopelessness and stagnation are undoubtedly far removed from the terrors of conventional warfare, they too are fighting their own battles. This conflict is spiritual, an inner confrontation, and a philosophical dispute with the very framework of modern society. While ‘The Lost Generation’ became disillusioned with life due to the falsities of war, ‘The Millennial Generation’s’ dissatisfaction has stemmed from a far broader range of sources: the economy, environment, housing, technology, speech, press, and political structures. While those who entered the twenties in the 20th century attempted to resolve their qualms through social interaction and artistic endeavours, many of those who now occupy this same decade a hundred years on, seek isolation and practice torpidity.
The Doomer is one of the many memetic encapsulations of this generation that has managed to succinctly demonstrate the attitudes of this subculture. Created in September 2018, the character (which is aesthetically based on Wojak) depicts a young man, with ‘no hope of career advancement’, who is a ‘high risk for opioid addiction’ and is ‘ashamed to speak with family’. He is a loner, drifting through the landscapes of life in a continuous and repetitive cycle. Each day is the same: sleep in, go out, get beers, drive back, smoke, play games and watch videos online until the early hours of the morning. The Doomer is unsatisfied with life, its monotony, twisted darkness, and ultimate pointlessness. They are mired by the perceived ‘evil’ of the world – either by the information they have witnessed online or through their personal life, in which relationships and a host of other miscellaneous events have broken their spirit. Instead of facing these issues head on, the Doomer has decided to self-isolate so that the pain can become more bearable.
The Doomer is an einzelgänger who has retreated into depths of absurdist philosophy. The question – ‘What is the meaning of existence?’ – is, for the Doomer, one that has no adequate answer. Therefore, as Albert Camus stipulates within The Myth of Sisyphus, they must learn how to endure this irresolvable emptiness and in doing so are left with three solutions.
- Physical Suicide
- Philosophical Suicide
- Absurd Freedom
While the Doomer may inevitably seek to carry out this first option, and on many occasions is even depicted as doing so (see: The Death of a Doomer & That Feel When…), it still remains and is even portrayed as unviable; for the act of ending one’s existence only makes this existence become more absurd.
Philosophical suicide, or the act of attaching oneself to religious, spiritual, or abstract beliefs in a transcendental realm to quell the barrage of reality, are equally as impractical. For the Doomer this is nothing but an act of heresy – ‘the truth, no matter how gritty and painful it may be’ is the only sentiment that keeps the Doomer continuing along his journey. He has taken the red pill and under no circumstances will the blue be re-taken. God is dead and the dead do not speak – a belief in anything but this only makes existence become more absurd.
The Doomer is therefore only left with one option – to accept the absurdity of life and continue to live in it despite all its madness. While Camus believed that in achieving this one could establish meaning great enough to attain personal freedom, the Doomer is seemingly unable to achieve this. Instead, the Doomer has fallen into what Kierkegaard calls, ‘demonic despair’. The person recognizes that ‘he is in despair, tries to find some way of alleviating his despair, but when no cure occurs, he becomes hardened against any form of help.’ Consequently, ‘the despairing individual at this stage begins to revel in his own despair and suffering, seeing his pain as lifting him above the common rung of mankind.’
This egotism should not be confused with narcissism (the outward projection of the ego), for the Doomer is not extroverted enough, nor has the capacity to recognize any significant level of self-worth. Instead, the elevation of ego is established through internal comparison and the perceived knowledge that they have acquired something of esoteric value.
While this maybe enough to sustain the Doomer’s survival, they are left continuously unsatisfied with the world around them and their own selves. In this sense, the character can be compared to the Buddhist figure of the Hungry Ghost. These creatures are depicted with thin necks, bloated bellies, and other emaciated features. They are riddled with desires, each of which they are unable to ever satisfy.
The Doomer is often contrasted with other generational archetypes, including the Boomer (Baby Boomer), Zoomer (Generation Z) and Bloomer (The Go-Getting Millennial). Although the Doomer doesn’t often directly interact with his memetic counterparts, they do occupy the same universe.
While the Doomer ruminates in the imperfections of the world, the Boomer appears to be content with the way things are. They remain in a state of blissful ignorance, unburdened by the problems of today.
“The key theme is their absolute inability to understand that the world has changed. Yet they keep giving absolutely retarded advice. They literally live in the past and are too stupid to see that the world has changed, and they are absolutely outdated” – HAMMURABl, Reddit, 2019.
The Doomer has been brought up in an age of technology, they have been overloaded with information and are constantly aware of the goings ‘on and developments of modern society. This contrasts with the Boomer, who appears to be content with the music, games, styles and ultimately, the ideas of a begone age. While the Boomer has slid into the warm bath of naivety, the Doomer has chosen the cold alternative of cynicism.
However, the Oomer Wojak narrative offers a third choice – acceptance. The Bloomer acknowledges that both naivety and cynicism are unhelpful choices if one is to appreciate life to its fullest. Consequently, they muster the courage to seek an alternative lifestyle – one that is not tainted by the realization that the world is imperfect or blinded by an attempt to alleviate this understanding through ignorance and sloth. Ultimately, the Bloomer is a product of a Doomer’s resolve. They become a go-getter: they shave, tidy their room, go to bed on time, work out and get a job. Instead of retreating from society, the Bloomer (ex-Doomer) actively attempts to become a part of it. While this might not create a universal meaning for the participating individual, it can, as Camus argues, create personal freedom. The Bloomer accepts life for what life is, understands its absolute futility, but gets on with it, nonetheless.
While this meme is a fiction, that displays various modern stereotypes and ideas from internet culture, it remains firmly rooted in our current reality. The Doomer encapsulates many of the attitudes of the millennial generation – their fears, hopes, and dreams.
In 2019 a Federal Reserve report discovered that Baby Boomers held 21% of America’s total net worth in 1989. Today, Millennials only make up 3% – seven times less at the same age. While the wealth gap between older and younger households has nearly doubled in the last 20 years.
According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials with a bachelor’s degree (or more) had a median annual earning valued at $56,000 in 2018; this was approximately equal to Generation X workers in 2001. However, Millennials with less than a full college experience earnt $2,900 less than Baby Boomer workers made in 1982.
Young adults are more likely to live at home with their parents than ever before. In 2018, 15% of Millennials (ages 25 to 37) had yet to form their own household, which is nearly double the share of Boomers (8%) when they were the same age. In 1980-84 the average age of a first-time buyer was 27 years old; in 2019, the average age was 33.
Whether this rise in the degeneration of mental health is a result of our increased awareness and understanding of psychological symptoms or a consequence of overdiagnosis, remains to be seen.
Yet, in an Annual Review of Public Health 1987 notes that ‘From 1900 to 1955, the suicide rate for 15 to 24-year-old was parallel to and about half the rate for all persons. But beginning in 1955, the rate for 15 to 24-year olds began to climb more steeply, and in 1978, for the first time in this century, exceeded the rate for all persons.’
A report from Am J Public Health (2006) shows that the suicide rate among 15-24 year-olds in 1989 would reach the rate of 13.3 (per/100,000). Although this would reduce to a rate of 9.9 in 2001/02, by 2017 this number would reach 14.6 – the highest rate recorded since suicide statistics began in 1960.
These statistics become even more shocking when the female population is taken out of the equation. As the Los Angeles Times states:
All these issues don’t have a single or easy solution. However, each should be considered and contemplated upon with a great deal of thought. With many economies declining even further, continuing housing issues, an increasing technological impact on the jobs market and less socialisation than ever before, solutions are desperately needed if this generation is to stand a chance at finding inner, social, and economic stability. While the Doomer narrative demonstrates that this can only come from within, we should seek to understand how we can stimulate the inner strength of the Bloomer within our society.