When I was your age….
Millennial. The definition of millennial is “a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century.” However, most of the articles written would suggest a very different meaning, something much more negative.
In a recent study into Millennials from Ipsos, the top 5 words most associated with Millennial are; tech savvy, materialistic, selfish, lazy and arrogant. The connotations of this word seem to be something of a generalisation of what is a diverse and worldwide group of over 80million* humans. (Source)
Admittedly, tech savvy is not insulting in itself, but I would argue that most people in the population are tech savvy these days. Even my 98-year-old Great Grandmother could work a basic mobile phone in her final years. My Grandmother who is 77 has her own iPad and watches her favourite “vloggers” on YouTube. She’s also pretty smart with texting and sends me regular, albeit completely out of context text messages, which take me a while to comprehend (“Rick Stein is in Iceland”, “Some monkeys frightened the horse – Dennis in hospital”, “He bought me a necklace, earrings, a book about Africa and some knickers”)
It seems every day there is another article telling the millennial who they are, what they want, why they want it and how different they are. What stands out is that these reports enjoy making jibes and digs at millennials. No other generation has ever been so widely studied, scrutinised and speculated over. Each article reads as its own little study of this bizarre new species “The Millennial” – as if with enough studying and enough budget spent on researching this fascinating creature, will one day help them reach a Eureka moment. Each article will say “Findings show” or “Studies show”, as if the millennial is some sort of exciting new David Attenborough subject. Just searching Google for reports about Millennials comes up with articles titles “The me me me generation”, “Millennials: The most selfish generation yet?” and “Millennials are the most narcissistic generation ever”
Generally speaking, these undermining articles are written by the prolific “baby-boomers” and the slightly less prolific, but still apparently wronged in some way, Generation X’s.
This is where technology bites the millennial back. As advantageous and useful modern technology is – everything is now out in the open. You can take a photo of your cat, put it on social media and suddenly someone you’ve never met from Yemen can comment on it, share it and “like” it and the next thing you know it has gone viral.
Everything is in the public forum. Any slip up you make, is out there for all to see and any selfie you take can be openly judged as being horrifically vain, horrifically pretty or a horrifically attention seeking, depending on the audience. Just as the generation of millennials can be watched through this fascinating little telescope, it can also give a platform for anyone who fancies one and this is where the perpetuation of millennials being a profoundly entitled generation stems from, and this perpetuation has caused a damaging opinion of young people who are now considered to not be hard workers and honestly, a bit of a joke who are not meant to be taken seriously in a working environment.
It’s hard to work out whether the older are just as confused by the younger generation as ever, or whether there’s some sort of perverse enjoyment that comes from undermining, and gently prodding this unusual creature in the hope of attaining a reaction.
The worst thing is that I actually hear this vitriol coming from people’s mouths – and powerful people at that. In the not too distant past for example, the MD of a successful company explicitly said that they don’t like employing millennials. That they are entitled. They went on to say they like a bit of arrogance but not “millennial” arrogance. I think I was the only one who didn’t laugh.
So what’s a millennial to do? They are told to have self-confidence and be go-getters and yet when they show self-worth they are arrogant and expect everything on a plate. So what next? They tone it down and then they are told that they are lazy; and all the while article upon article is forced upon them informing them that millennials like to eat tofu, avocado and quinoa and selfie culture is ruining the world and that millennials are a conceited bunch who only care about themselves and pictures of cats on the internet.
There’s some sort of one-sided need to talk down to millennials and a need to tell them “When I was your age, I was at university, I worked at a restaurant, covered my university costs and still managed to stick a deposit on a house 2-years after graduating” and that’s great – I personally would have loved to have been able to do that, but unfortunately even 6 years into my career I still haven’t been able to put a deposit down on anything resembling a home and I’m still paying off my students loan and will be for many more years!
I’m not bitter, I was prepared for this and I am going to one day own my own house (I hope.) However, how is a millennial supposed to take responsibility for the fact that their parents went to university for free and years later the millennials were paying anything from £3,000 – £10,000 a year in university fees (without including halls and general living expenses) and how exactly do you suppose a millennial is meant to take responsibility for the fact that the average UK house price in 1971 was just £5,632 and in 2013, the average house price had risen to the £245k mark. That’s an increase of over 43 times. To put that in perspective, if the price of a pint of milk had increased by the same amount, we’d be paying over £10 for a 4-pint bottle. Sorry – but I cannot take responsibility for that. (Source)
I am not complaining. I am not whining. I am not entitled. I am not bitter. However, this is tiring. Tiring to constantly hear so much authoritative discourse about a generation that has hardly been given a chance yet, who, as far as I can tell, are hard workers, driven, creative and engaging. Yes, there will always be exceptions and I’m sure there are some incredibly materialistic, lazy and narcissistic millennials out there – but probably no more so than previous generations who also have been known to have the odd personality flaw…