Here is a post that tries to account for the blandness and weakness of the Millennial generation by pointing to their insulation from having to struggle for their goals (everybody gets a trophy), and being bombarded with egalitarian propaganda since they were children (everyone is a special little snowflake). Don't look to this generation for the ubermenschen of the future.
Only part of this explanation is correct, though — that they have been insulated from failure, from criticism, from skinned knees. But that doesn't mean they haven't been moved from one arena of mock-competition to another throughout their upbringing, and continued their competitiveness once they're relatively more in control of their lives.
Consider how pervasive it is for small kids to "take part" in a competitive activity, i.e. be shoved into it by sideline parents, whether football for fourth-graders or cheerleading for children. Their parents won't even let them rest on a family holiday like Thanksgiving, hauling them off to run a race instead, however friendly the Turkey Trot competition may be.
Pre-schoolers compete over getting into the "good schools," and high schoolers compete like never before to get into the "good colleges." All that resume-padding bullshit reveals how desperately competitive today's environment is for young people.
Participation rates in high school sports keep rising, and the number of sports keeps expanding. It's a fair cry from the old days, when a handful of natural athletes lettered in baseball, and all the other kids stayed out of the competitive arena.
These days, even geeky engineering activities like a robotics club has to be structured as a team preparing for a series of Lego robotics competitions against teams from other schools. You didn't see that competitive atmosphere among the shop class enthusiasts of the 1950s. The phrase "talk shop" suggests laid-back camaraderie, not intense Us vs. Them teamwork.
Schoolchildren have all sorts of progress charts and behavior charts that accumulate happy stickers for each micro-achievement. It's true that you still get a minimum number for doing nothing at all, but that doesn't keep the top-scorers from earning even more, and does not re-frame the environment as a non-competitive one. Only now, the winners and losers are those with 50 vs. 10 points instead of 40 vs. 0 points.
Just because there's a safety padding at the bottom doesn't mean that kids these days aren't being constantly ranked in one micro-competition after another. It's like mock-competition to prepare for a never-ending competition once they reach the grown-up world. If your parents didn't want to prepare you for such a competitive environment, they wouldn't put you through all the play-fight competitions when you're growing up.
Again, contrast this with the laid-back schools of the '50s, when teachers did not submit regular progress reports to parents with elaborate distributions of tick marks showing their child's measurement on multiple variables. And when parents didn't prepare their kids by making every one of their pastimes a (safety-padded) competition.
When given a little more freedom after childhood, what do the Millennials choose to do for fun? Invent a competition over anything at all, no matter how trivial or gay, and spend your free time checking back in to see where you stand in the rankings. Post your rig, post your stats, post your lifts, your outfit of the day, your coffee of the day, etc etc etc.
Gamerscores and leader boards in video games would have been alien to the arcade scene of the late '70s and early '80s. At most the games kept a list of "high scores," but they were only three characters long and thus effectively anonymous. Anybody trying to broadcast their high score outside of their immediate social circle would have not only been ostracized but beaten up for good measure. Video games back then were generally not player-vs.-player competitions either; if two players could play at the same time, it was usually cooperatively.
Noobs in all domains are hazed way more violently and humiliatingly than they were 50 years ago.
Fishing for compliments (likes, upvotes, re-tweets) from a vast crowd of strangers would have struck the laid-back youngsters of the '70s as appalling. It's not as though they didn't have access to cameras and mass media if they wanted to distribute them. "Who does this chick think she is? Marcia Brady?" And that little dorkmeister who managed to get his letter to the editor printed in no fewer than six local papers across the nation? "Woah dude, next stop — the White House! LOL."
For all the talk about how today's dogmatically PC climate is one of cutting the tall poppy down, the reality is just the opposite. Millennials do not ever speak up to cut down the grade-grubber, the curve-wrecker, and the know-it-all in the classroom. They may tweet a micro-aggression about it after class, but in any way that matters they are utter pussies who fail to enforce the supposed norm of tearing down the elite.
In fact, you have to go way back before the Millennial era to find widespread policing of individuals who threatened camaraderie by acting too big for their britches. High schoolers in the '70s would not have tolerated the constant hand-raiser. "Enough already, you fuckin' NERD!" Nor the over-glorified hall monitor types whose tattle-taling widened the gap, so to speak, between the goody two-shoes and those who got punished for having fun. "Thanks a lot, you fuckin' NARC!"
Even the professional victim activists back in the '50s only sought desegregation, rather than an escalating contest of whose rights had been more violated, and who had "earned" as many victimhood merit badges than who else, as you see among today's SJWs. Rosa Parks didn't make a special stink about being a black woman, only a black person. Any homos in the desegregation movement didn't limp out over how worse off they had it than the mere black heterosexuals.
Thus, it is over- rather than under-exposure to competition that explains why the Millennials are so messed up. When every social interaction their parents and teachers have placed them in has been a contest whose ranking is public knowledge — notwithstanding the fact that it has a safety padded landing for the losers — they fail to experience camaraderie while growing up, and they will remain antagonistic into adulthood. The top-ranked remain poor winners with no real friends and only hangers-on, while the bottom-ranked remain sore losers whose resentfulness alienates the others.
Over-exposure to competition may also explain their tendency to melt down over seemingly trivial trials. If they don't enjoy rest periods, as it were, between episodes of competitiveness, their minds don't get to recover and become stronger. The competitive lobe of their brain becomes fatigued from chronic hyper-extension.
If it were merely a case of having no experience with competition, and facing it for the first time, their reactions would have a heavy coloring of surprise and shock at the novelty of it all, the way a weakling would react when he tried to move a sofa. He would feel inadequate and embarrassed, rather than stressed out and ready to ragequit.
But Millennial melt-downs tend to be colored more by fatigue and being "over it," as though the competitive framework is not only familiar to them but has been ever present in their lives, all the way back to being dragged out of the house at six years old to race in a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.
This shows up elsewhere in their distant relationship with their parents, even when they grow up in an intact and non-abusive family. By being drafted into so many micro-competitions, and judged by so many different progress charts in childhood, they don't sense how else they could matter to their parents other than by getting good marks in some activity, which they hope will please their parents and make them proud. The most frequent expression of affection from their parents is "awesome job!" — based on their performance in some micro-trial (setting the silverware correctly, not getting any "red lights" from the teacher all week, and so on).
I doubt that the Millennials feel that their parents love them unconditionally, or that their parents are concerned for their welfare just because they're their own flesh and blood, and not because the parent acts like some genetically unrelated coach who wants his little players to win against the other team in the big game of life. That doesn't mean they feel their parents despise them, are callous toward them, or whatever — only that they feel more like their own parents are more like foster parents, albeit foster parents who are thoughtful and kindhearted.
I'm not sure how else to describe it, but it's a strange aspect of Millennials' relationships with their parents — even kids from stable, two-parent families are likely to behave as though their relationship were that of a benevolent patron and a grateful client who just happened to find their way into the household, instead of kin members tied by the special bond of blood.
In any case, whatever has gone wrong in recent decades cannot be the result of declining levels of competition, since they have only escalated. And we should not confuse superficially egalitarian dogma with real-world practices that have turned every social interaction into a status contest, however trivial.