So, okay, great. Now when actually autistic people try to talk about autistic burnout, we will be dismissed as trying to hop onto a millennial brandwagon. All because BuzzFeed decided that millennials are “the burnout generation”.
But the more I tried to figure out my errand paralysis, the more the actual parameters of burnout began to reveal themselves. Burnout and the behaviors and weight that accompany it aren’t, in fact, something we can cure by going on vacation. It’s not limited to workers in acutely high-stress environments. And it’s not a temporary affliction: It’s the millennial condition. It’s our base temperature. It’s our background music. It’s the way things are. It’s our lives.
Emphasis added because what a truly galling sentence.
In fact, I wholeheartedly do believe that society is structured in a smothering way for most people (moreso if you aren’t straight, white, and male like I am), even if also structured to favor the neurotypical. This article, though, while critiquing a millennial orientation toward “branding” one’s life, literally tries to turn “burnout” into just another millennial brand.
But social media is also the means through which many “knowledge workers” — that is, workers who handle, process, or make meaning of information — market and brand themselves. Journalists use Twitter to learn about other stories, but they also use it to develop a personal brand and following that can be leveraged; people use LinkedIn not just for résumés and networking, but to post articles that attest to their personality (their brand!) as a manager or entrepreneur. Millennials aren’t the only ones who do this, but we’re the ones who perfected and thus set the standards for those who do.
“Branding” is a fitting word for this work, as it underlines what the millennial self becomes: a product.
This is a kind of life garbage the article itself generates while critiquing. There’s so much branding in here. “Errand paralysis”? “Decision fatigue”? For the actually autistic out here, this is called an executive function problem, and it’s a very real and excruciating thing, not a hashtag. It hurts.
Other tasks are, well, boring. I’ve done them too many times. The payoff from completing them is too small. Boredom with the monotony of labor is usually associated with physical and/or assembly line jobs, but it’s widespread among “knowledge workers.”
This is not burnout. Finding an every day task “boring” is not burnout. I mostly avoid the generational stereotyping, but this right here is why millennials have a (let’s presume inaccurate) reputation for being entitled. This is someone feeling entitled to brand themselves as suffering from burnout because they find mundane tasks “boring”.
Pundits spend a lot of time saying “This is not normal,” but the only way for us to survive, day to day, is to normalize the events, the threats, the barrage of information, the costs, the expectations of us. Burnout isn’t a place to visit and come back from; it’s our permanent residence.
Emphasis added because that last sentence—and I mean this very, very seriously—is dangerous. Right now, at this very moment, there’s a study happening about autistic burnout (in which I am a participant), and potentially about its correlation to the rate of suicide or suicidal ideation among the autistic.
But don’t worry: BuzzFeed is here to let you know that burnout really is about millennials finding life “boring”.