Everywhere you turn in modern media, there’s another think piece on how Millennials – the generation generally defined as being born between 1981 or 82 and 2004 – are the worst. Millennials are considered lazy, self-absorbed. “Children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect their elders, and love talking instead of exercise.”
Of course, that quote is commonly attributed to Socrates, speaking in 4 CE, and is regularly used to demonstrate that the elder generation has never approved of the younger one. Baby Boomers and Millennials are no different.
So why do we need to stop bashing Millennials?
Baby boomers generally have a high opinion of themselves; more than half of them view themselves as self-reliant, while just under half view their generation as moral and compassionate. Millennials, meanwhile, have a much poorer view of themselves according to the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, the Australian Human Rights Commission head in 1999, Chris Sidoti, called baby boomers “the most selfish generation in history…I don’t think there’s been a generation like this that has been so unwilling to pay a fair share of taxation.”
Millennials were raised being told that they were special and unique, and then launched into a world that did none of the things they were told it would…in large part because boomers had sabotaged that world in every way possible, eradicating the very concept of a middle class.
We Blame Them For Things That Aren’t Their Fault
Millennials didn’t cause the housing crisis, which has its roots in real estate speculation in the 1980s, and which directly caused the 2009 recession. Millennials didn’t convince themselves to go to college and accumulate student loan debt that they are now unable to pay because the jobs they were promised simply do not exist. Millennials didn’t even ask for those famous participation trophies; those came from their parents, the baby boomers, who couldn’t stand the idea that their children weren’t all honored equally.
Millennials had it driven into their heads that keeping score wasn’t as important as making sure everyone got an equal share, and then were blamed for not being willing to participate in the cut throat business world of the 1980s.
They’re Responding To Society
Millennials are more involved in social media than any other generation; they’re more interested in taking selfies, playing games on their phones, and connecting with their friends all around the world with their phones. And Generation X was better at programming their VCRs than their parents, and baby boomers were going to have their morals destroyed by Elvis and the Beatles. Millennials are responding to the society in which they were raised, a society that was influenced and created by their parents and older siblings.
Boomers had “Crackberries” long before Millennials had smartphones, and it wasn’t a Millennial who created the first iPhone. Millennials weren’t the ones who made these devices popular, anymore than Generation X popularized VCRs. They build upon and utilized the technology their parents gave them, integrating that technology into their world in ways their parents couldn’t do.
Generations are Marketing Tools – Nothing More
The biggest reason to stop bashing Millennials is that the term is really meaningless outside of very specific connotations. Each generational name – the silent generation, baby busters, GI generation, Generation X – came from a particular work of art. The names tend to stick for marketing reasons; companies and brands like to categorize people in order to better target their ads, blog posts, and overall marketing strategies.
This is great for marketing, but less useful as a tool for societal analysis. There isn’t a strict line between those born in 1979 or 1981; many people born in the very late 70s identify more with the Millennial generation than Generation X. How much of that is a rejection of what Gen X was said to represent?
Beyond that, it’s just old news for the older generation to hate the younger one and to believe that it is leading to the downfall of society. Instead of blaming Millennials for everything that they grew into and had nothing to do with, it’s much more interesting to look at how to manage and encourage the growth of people who grew up with technology in their hands. Helping these people learn how to save a world that is falling apart around their ears is much more interesting than yelling at them for not having saved it yet.
So, writers, shelve your latest think piece on how Millennials are just the absolute worst and start considering how to engage with and develop the talents this young generation has at their fingertips.