Scrolling around on the internet during your day-to-day activities, you will probably come across the word "millennial" at least once. It's hard to avoid. And if you're like me, someone born in the late 90s who might identify as millennial or is categorized by others as a millennial, you're sick of hearing about how millennials are the worst generation ever.
In a talk at Deep Shift, comedian Adam Conover discusses the concept of millennials and why they as a generation don't exist in the way you think they do. Specifically, he talks about how companies' marketing strategies shouldn't be targeting millennials using memes and slang they think will make a connection to us.
Conover essentially breaks down generational thinking into this: It's condescending, created by older people to distinguish younger people, and doesn't do anything to foster good relations. Generations are not a real thing. We created them to separate different age groups and basically to keep doing something that has never been beneficial: pigeonhole people into reductive categories that don't actually define them at all.
"Oh yeah, those millennial kids are always on their phones and tweeting everything they do. They're obsessed with social media and are the most narcissistic people to ever exist." Please. There's a "generation" called "the greatest generation," consisting of people who grew up during the Great Depression. Talk about narcissism. But, as Conover explains, the names of generations are "invented by writers to get rich." It's as simple as that. The guys who coined the term "millennial" were Neil Howe and William Strauss, and they decided what made us different from those who came before us.
Those designated as millennials are not obsessed with social media or their phones, just as other "generations" are not obsessed with the amazing technology that they grew up with, like cars or TV.
I'm sure in the 80s you would have heard someone say, "Yeah those Gen X'ers are just obsessed with their digital cameras, how vain." Technological phenomena can be really exciting for those who were growing up when they came out. But for those who are older and don't understand what's going on, the new inventions can be scary and it might feel like the world is moving on without them. And that's fine. But to dismiss these new ideas and revolutionary platforms, like social media, as dumb fads for shallow youths leads to a breakdown in respect for people of different age groups. And it goes both ways - old people think young people are self-centered and technology-crazed, and young people think old people are stubborn and stuck in the past.
You've probably seen this TIME Magazine cover at some point in the past few years and if you're like me, you thought, "Hey, that's pretty offensive."
The tagline that comes after doesn't really alleviate the harsh burn of this writer, and essentially TIME Magazine, saying that millennials are vapid and lazy. And if you watch Conover's presentation, you'll see that the facts just don't support these claims. What we have here is a simple case of older people being afraid of technology and losing their place in this fast-paced world. I know social media and apps and tablets are very confusing and there's really too many out there to actually keep track of, but taking the time to learn about them might lead to a discovery that what younger people are inventing could possibly change lives in a positive way.
So, no. I'm not a millennial in the way that older people have defined it. I'm just another human on this earth trying to be productive and live a full, happy life. Don't call me "social media obsessed" because I like to stay connected to people like my sisters who I don't see often when I'm at school. Don't assume that I'm narcissistic because I take a lot of pictures with my friends and of what I'm doing; I want to remember the moments that are meaningful to me and look back at them someday. And especially don't say I'm lazy because I use my phone to look up information. I'd rather be sure about what I'm saying rather than make generalizations and assumptions like you have about people my age.
It's time to start thinking in terms of what makes us alike rather than what you may think separates us. Conover presents it best in his breakdown of the demographics across our so-called generations: "Here's what really exists: people, a whole lot of people who are alive at the same time."