Millennials. I can hear the faintly exasperated tone it takes for many people to utter the term. But, why?
“Millennials are whiny.” “Millennials are entitled.” “Millennials are just so angry.” It is hard to escape these stereotypical phrases. Again, why?
The truth? I am not really sure, but one thing is certain. Many people do not like change or newness — the Millennial generation happens to be youngest demographic making change and adding to newness.
Even I catch myself associating the term “millennial” with negativity and a general lack of enthusiasm. Then, I realize that I myself am a millennial, along with most of my friends. I wonder if they too loathe the word and all the nuanced assumptions attached to it. I wonder if older generations ever felt disdain for their own name.
At this point, it has been ingrained in many to feel hate not just toward the term, but toward this group of human beings.
While I cannot find the exact answer, I can look at the facts.
First, it is important to understand what a millennial is on a rather basic level.
According to a 2015 article produced by the Pew Research Center, people of the millennial generation were born in the timeframe of the early 1980s to the late 1990s — just before the millennium, hence the name. Although people fight over the exact ages of the group, the general consensus is that millennials range from young adults to people in their mid 30s.
However, it is not just the facts and ages that make up a demographic — it can be the demographic’s societal role, outlook or impact.
The earliest members of the millennial generation are just now entering an age of adulthood where they might have “settled down” and “figured life out.” So, there is little to analyze other than the assumptions and generalizations about the almost 80 million millennials in the United States.
The general idea is that millennials have grown up with a wavering economy, a disintegrating environment, a broken political system and an overabundance of invasive technology.
While some of those things have been problems for previous generations, they seem to have all culminated to a point of no return.
People get mad when millennials do too little to fix these problems by calling them lazy, and they get mad when millennials aim to fix these problems by calling them entitled. Some people are just mad.
There really is no way to truly understand why millennials get such a bad rap. Maybe it is social media. Maybe it is an unwritten rule that only older generations understand. And maybe, it is all part of a cycle.
The generation with a dedicated chapter in almost all history books is the baby boomer generation. After a period of depression and war, Americans got with it and started popping out children faster than the U.S. had seen in quite a while. And thus, the baby boomer generation was literally born. Loosely described as those born within the timeframe of 1946 to 1964, this generation produced some pretty long-lasting societal impacts.
In that 20-year span, consumerism rose to an all-time high and with it came the middle class family. But, the baby boomer generation was not just composed of nuclear families and suburban neighborhoods.
Born in an age where major conflict took a backseat for a while, younger baby boomers fought for economic, political and social rights, especially for minority groups. The civil rights movement, second-wave feminism and the anti-war movement all had baby boomers to thank for some successes.
Baby boomers annoyed older generations and simultaneously created new waves of change.
Then came Generation X. Born from1965 to the late 1970s, Gen-Xers became young adults in the early ‘80s, just as baby millennials entered the picture.
Generation X also grew up in a time of social and political change.
After Woodstock brought out the inner “hippie” of older baby boomers and young Gen-Xers alike, Gen-Xers spent their younger days acclimating to new technology.
Music TV became the biggest form of entertainment and produced some Generation X rebels.
Along with emerging technology and entertainment, so too came political scandal and intrigue. Watergate, the Iranian hostage crisis and the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal all took over the news.
Gen-Xers ushered in a new era of societal change by taking stronger stances on gay rights, the aids crisis and female reproductive rights.
People of this generation were also labeled as out-of-touch and self obsessed by older generations. Seem familiar?
Like all generations before them, millennials have created and been part of changes, good and bad. It is all a cycle. The youngest generation of any time period usually ruffles some feathers.
Some millennials probably do fit all the negative stereotypes, while most are just young adults attempting to figure out their place in the world.
When I look around, I see millennials aiming to fix problems, not just waiting for help. But I also see older generations lending a helping hand when it is needed.
Within the next few years, a whole new generation will sprout into adulthood. And while I am sure that they too will make waves of change, they will ultimately participate in the hazing process that all generations undergo.
Hailey Stewart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Hailey_ann97