The New York Times recently published an article called Death of the Party, in which the author points out how much younger generations have opted out of the traditional chip-and-dip, mix-and-mingle kind of get-togethers that you might have seen on Mad Men (or, you know, in real life).
There are plenty of reasons why millennials and parties are incompatible, and they all make sense; it’s harder to host parties (the expense, the space, the expectations for awesomeness), and it’s easier to ditch out on them and opt for something less emotionally demanding.
But for previous generations, the anatomy of a traditional party was simple. Invite guests (and everyone actually RSVPs). Make food and drinks. Clean your house. Dress nicely. Play music. Enjoy pleasant conversation. Do everything possible to make your guests feel welcome and at home.
Outside of the problematic logistics for hosting parties these days, the last two points challenge millennials the most. As a generation, we’re great at volunteering and contributing to important causes. But when it comes to forming bonds with those closer to us—acquaintances, colleagues, or casual friends—we bristle at the idea of deliberately entertaining them. Having a real conversation is even harder, because it requires more thought and effort than clicking a like button or reblogging a clever post. Instead, we millennials opt for events that require less planning and thoughtful participation: festivals, sporting events, and the endless weekend cycle of drink at a bar —> hook up —> stagger home.
I can’t blame us. Most millennials are working too hard during the week to pay student loans (and achieve all the other aspects of the American Dream) to welcome the social exhaustion that comes with parties. And with our preference toward technology, maybe we don’t want to be entertained by each other anymore—we’d rather just consume the content that others create. Parties don’t cut it because it’s not enough to simply appreciate one another with no strings—phone, blog, or Instagram followers—attached.
While our logic is sensible, the underlying trend behind the death of parties is much more disturbing: it means that millennials have no sense of hospitality or community. Rather than go out of our way to welcome others into our lives and emotions, we prefer isolation. God forbid someone comes between me and my phone/social media/Netflix. It’s sensible… but sad.
I don’t propose bringing parties back, because it sets an unreasonable expectation. But fellow millennials, let’s transfer the ideology of parties to a smaller scale this holiday season. Let’s invite friends over, one or two at a time, and cook a meal for them. Talk to them. Enjoy their company. Perhaps the party will die—but the meaning behind serving others will not.