Opinion: 2016 wasn’t actually the worst; it is just generational relativity


Graphic by Kelby Lorenz

Terrible things happened in 2016, including mass shootings at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and at a protest in Dallas, Texas, but social media and aging baby boomers and the silent generation are the real catalysts for 2016 being designated as “the worst year ever.”

Many on social media suggest that the number of celebrity deaths were the tipping point for 2016’s bad reputation. And there were plenty of them: David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke, Prince, Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds and George Michael, just to name a few.

In a world connected by social media, news travels faster than ever. So naturally, news of celebrity deaths trend at a faster rate too. Combined with that speed and the growing number of people who enjoy mass entertainment is the aging of silver screen actors and actresses and pop culture icons.

No one is getting any younger, and now that the childhood role models of millennials (most active on social media) are getting older, it seems like more and more are dying.

It is a generational situation though. Ask someone in the silent generation if they know whom Anton Yelchin was,  and they probably do not know, unless they are a “Star Trek” fan, but if you ask them whom Pat Harrington was, they have a better chance of telling you he’s from “One Day at a Time.” Both of these celebrities died in 2016, but different generations know different generations of entertainers.

Of course it is sad when celebrities die, especially when you have grown up watching them on the screen, but 2016 was not the worst year ever because of those we lost.

Instead, let’s reflect on what was good in 2016, like the fact that unemployment hit its lowest rate since the recession or that several women of color made political history in November when they were elected to prominent leadership positions, and go from there to make 2017 even better.