This week, I was fortunate enough to begin a project focus on millennials and the way we, as a generation interact with art and use museums. The first task of this project was to spend an afternoon browsing some of the various articles that have been written about millennials over the past few years.
What I found was nothing surprising. As someone who is quite tuned into news, media, and current events, I’m fairly familiar with the general image of millennials put out in the media. One publication says that we are the most narcissistic generation, another tries to defend us by saying that while that’s true, it’s simply not our fault. Some try to point out positive aspects of the apparently self-centered disposition of our generation, while others go a completely different direction to say that the real reason the world should have an issue with us is that we simply aren’t patriotic enough.
Needless to say, it’s enough to make your head spin.
Personally, I’m not particularly bothered by these articles, but I have trouble seeing what they really do for our society.
In one Vanity Fair article (that, to be fair, still grouped and judged millenials as a full generation), the author stops for a few sentences to write about judging people as individuals and not by the supposed disposition of their age group and generation.
He wrote about the millenials he had met and the ways he saw them think and function creatively in an ever-changing job market and world. He writes about how he admires this aspect of their personalities. While he doesn’t pose this as a view-changing experience, he also doesn’t pose these individuals as exceptions to the rule.
The issue with these articles is not that they are criticizing and judging our age group, it’s really that they attempt to group together every human born over a period of 18+ years into one image, one stereotype. Sure there are selfish millennials, and there are incredibly forward-thinking and selfless millennials as well, but couldn’t that be said of any generation, or really of almost any group of people?
The fact of the matter is that all the research and observation of general trends in the world couldn’t actually make all, or even a vast majority of the millennials fit into the narrow descriptions set out by these articles. People are simply not one-dimensional types, and it’s frankly a little bit boring and pointless to try and write us as such.If we go into interactions ready to judge others in this way, we’re not getting anywhere as a community, and we’re not going to make meaningful connections as individuals.