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Mayim Bialik apologized for her video about 'millennial burnout'

Mayim Bialik has issued an apology for missing the mark on a recent video on her YouTube channel directed at millennials. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Big Bang Theory actor Mayim Bialik is apologizing for a controversial video posted to her YouTube channel on Thursday. In the eight-minute clip, Bialik offers suggestions for countering “millennial burnout,” but many viewers saw her advice as condescending rather than helpful.

“I may have missed the mark in this video. I want to learn and make a follow-up video, so I would love if you sent me specific issues about millennials you’d like me to address and expand my knowledge on,” Bialik wrote in a comment on her video. “Send articles, experiences — anything you think would help. I’m sensitive to your concerns and appreciate the feedback I’ve gotten so far.”

The millennial generation includes people born between 1981 and 1996, according to the Pew Research Center. And the connection between millennials and burnout was made in a July 2018 Gallup study. But the term “millennial burnout” entered the mainstream in January when Anne Helen Petersen wrote extensively about the concept for BuzzFeed.

As Petersen explains, many millennials have been conditioned to think they should be working all the time. Plus, many members of the generation face ever-increasing student loan debt. Peterson wrote for BuzzFeed,

“We’re deeply in debt, working more hours and more jobs for less pay and less security, struggling to achieve the same standards of living as our parents, operating in psychological and physical precariousness, all while being told that if we just work harder, meritocracy will prevail, and we’ll begin thriving.”

With all of that in mind, it’s no wonder millennials might feel burned out. Work-life balance can feel difficult, if not impossible, to achieve, and the prevailing message seems to be to just keep working harder. And those real-life factors, including debt and long work hours, can make advice like Bialik’s feel, essentially, pointless.

One of Bialik’s tips for millennials in the video, for example, is to “lower your expectations.” In that segment, she talked about millennials who want “exactly the job that you want for ultimate fulfillment.” But as Petersen explains in her essay, part of that is because of the way those millennials were raised — to believe that a good career is possible if you work hard enough. After all, what’s the point of taking on tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt to have a job where you aren’t fulfilled?

The actor went on to criticize the term “self-care,” adding that she would “never think” to ask a boss for time off or to visit a dentist. In reality, though, when someone is overworked and underpaid, taking a few vacation days to themselves or going to a doctor’s appointment seems like the least they can get from their employer. And if achieving work-life balance wasn’t so impossible in the first place, there might not be such a market for self-care products and advice. (As for her repeated suggestion that millennials refuse to wait in line, well, I invite her to visit any Trader Joe’s location in Manhattan.)

Many of the comments on Bialik’s video were critical of her message. “I normally love you[r] content but this seemed really unnecessarily generalized and insulting,” one commenter wrote. “Aren’t millennials in their 30s, why is she talking to them like children?” another person commented.

Others tried to explain the economic straits a number of millennials have found themselves. “The leading cause of millennial burnout is economic stress. Millennials are struggling to afford basic things and are, through no fault of their own, worse of[f] than previous generations,” one person commented. “Fifty years ago, one factory worker could support a family of five. Now a college graduate can not even dream of renting a small apartment in the city. We are witnessing end-stage capitalism and dealing with reckless and short-sighted decisions of people, who shaped this dumpster fire for us to live in.”

Based on Bialik’s apology, it sounds like she is taking the comments to heart and is willing to learn more about what millennial burnout truly entails. Maybe for her followup video, she can include the perspectives of some actual millennials, instead of just generalizing about them.

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