A generation misunderstood.

It’s so easy to judge what you don’t understand. I think previous generations find it acceptable to compare their memories with our realities. I have a problem when people try to define the millions of individuals in four or five words, especially when these words are negative. Technically a “millennial” is a person who comes of age in the new millennium, essentially anyone born from 1980 through the 1990’s. Currently, upwards of 80 million millennials live in the United States, but they face constant criticism. You can ask almost anyone and you will find a stereotype that goes with the word millennial.

“No generation has been as publicly reviled, praised, misunderstood, and analyzed as the Millennials,” said Shama Hyder, a Forbes contributor.  Millennials are also known as Generation Y. The generations that have gone before us feel free to label us as narcissistic, lazy, uncultured, entitled and that we have no appreciation for the hard work of previous generations. I agree that we cannot fully understand what previous generations have endured. In the same way, older generations cannot understand what it’s like to grow up in a world that is changing so rapidly, politically and technologically— that if you rest for just a moment, you are left behind.

Honestly, how does one even begin to go about stereotyping upwards of 80 million people? Within this generation, so many different types of people and personalities exist, all of which come from diverse backgrounds, different opportunities, relationships and lives. Why is it that older generations feel entitled to stereotype all of us, let alone in a negative way? Being a millennial, this stereotype from our elders is immensely frustrating. Not only because I am one, but because it is completely false.

The assumption that millennials are lazy and entitled is completely untrue. Data compiled by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a psychology professor at Clark University, shows that millennial rated “contribute to society,” “correct inequalities” and “be a leader in the community” higher than baby boomers did when they were our age. As an individual, I am constantly busy working at my job, studying for classes, or getting involved in philanthropy through my sorority. The people I am surrounded by (other millennials) are just as involved and hard working as myself, if not more involved and proactive.

In a study done by the White House, it was found that more millennials have college degrees than any other generation of young adults. Millennials were also found more likely to attend graduate school than generations before them. As college students, we know that education is key as we are headed into one of the most competitive eras in history. A college education has become so expensive and few people graduate without debt, having paid for the exorbitant fees that come with a diploma that is quickly becoming the minimum requirement. Most of us have to work jobs in our free time just to get by. Whereas participating in extracurricular activities, internships, volunteer work, leadership and maintaining a high GPA used to be going “above and beyond,” it has now become the bare minimum to land a decent job. Millennials are living through this, and yet somehow we are constantly dodging criticism from generations who think we have it easy.

As for a narcissistic culture, I understand the argument. I have seen a jump in self-involvement among people my age. However, while an older generation finds it easy to judge us as self absorbed, the truth is that technology has left us feeling enormously isolated and lonely. We are running like mad to keep up with normal. As technology advances and we are able to share and absorb tons of information amongst social platforms, it’s no wonder we are more involved and focused on ourselves. That being said, we are also creating more, sharing more ideas and helping others through these supposed “negative” platforms. Because of our introspection, we have higher expectations for who we are as people, and the future we plan to create. Every year millennials create more and more ambitious goals than previous generations.

There seems to be such a lack of compassion for Generation Y. Every generation before us has done exactly what we are doing – creating trends, embracing new technology and taking advantage of what previous generations have provided for us. While I understand our generation may have some generalized weaknesses, to categorize our entire age group in a negative way is destructive, dishonest and unhelpful.

 

Sources:

“15 Economic Facts About Millennials.” The White House. October 2014. Accessed June 24, 2016. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/millennials_report.pdf.

Dorsey, Jason. “The Top 10 Millennials and Gen Y Questions Answered – Finally!” Jason Dorsey The Top 10 Millennials Gen Y Questions Answered Comments. 2013. Accessed June 24, 2016. http://jasondorsey.com/millennials/the-top-gen-y-questions-answered/.

Glassman, Mark. “Five Myths about Millennials.” The Washington Post. August 30, 2013. Accessed June 24, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-millennials/2013/08/30/a6d9a854-ff6c-11e2-9711-3708310f6f4d_story.html.

Hyder, Shama. “Here’s What You Need To Know About Millennials.” Forbes. March 4, 2014. Accessed June 24, 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/shamakabani/2014/03/04/here-is-what-you-need-to-know-about-millennials/#160b6b6e31f0.

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