Different sources have different time frames for defining each generation. These timelines are determined by the social and economic differences between previous and current generations. According to the Pew Research Center, the millennial generation spans 1981-1997, but according to the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation, it spans 1980-1999. The following generation, known as post-millennials or Gen Zers, is generally considered to start in 2000. Because of the conflicting timeframes, someone born in 1998 or 1999 could be considered both a millennial and Gen Zer. Since the general span of each generation is 15 to 20 years, Gen Z’s slot is coming to an end.
One of the main issues that comes with being a millennial is that the media constantly obsesses over us. It seems like everyone older is concerned about who we are and what we will do in the future. We are called selfish, lazy and addicted to technology. Older generations have a constant drive to learn about us and our place in the workforce. Searching “millennials and Gen Zs” online brings up articles about the generational differences and how these differences will affect the workforce. Now, there is a shift of focus from the concerns about millennials to concerns about Gen Zers. This shifting focus is not specific to these two generations, but it is a recurring trend that has dominated media for decades.
Kelly Williams Brown’s TEDx Talk, “I’m a Millennial, and I Am a Monster,” addresses the issue of the media’s negative attitude toward younger generations. Brown cites newspapers and magazines from different decades that exhibit the same attitude toward previous younger generations that is heard regarding millennials today. Her evidence shows attacking younger generations and further inciting fear and concern about them is a recurring trend. Brown uses evidence to deconstruct negative notions toward millennials as she attempts to persuade her audience that not all millennials are the lazy, selfish and self-absorbed youths the media portrays them to be.
In the 2011 TEDx Talk, “Millennials: Who They Are & Why We Hate Them,” Scott Hess points out the differences between Gen Xers and millennials. There are differences in attitudes, beliefs and relationships to others and the world. Hess touches on the main issue of the age difference and the obsession with a younger generation, but focuses his attention on the argument that Gen Xers are jealous of millennials because everything has been made easier through the internet and social media. Hess also says Gen Xers were subject to the same kind of ridicule when they were young.
Embracing Your Generation
The stress of finishing school, finding a job or pursuing a dream career is complicated by the constant negativity toward our generation. As millennials, we must embrace our differences and the technological tools available to us. For some of us this is easy, but for others, nagging doubt and uncertainty make us check ourselves constantly. It doesn’t help that family or community members single us out because of age and an assumed selfish, narcissistic and entitled personality that stems from our birth year. To overcome this obstacle, we must do what we do best — speak up and adapt.
One reason why millennials are criticized is because of how often we post about our lives. But I wager that if a Gen Xer had Facebook or Instagram 1964 or 1984 they would be doing the exact same thing. I have met older millennials who claim they aren’t millennials and make fun of their own generation. While amusing, this shows no one wants to be associated with the millennial generation, not even millennials themselves.
I constantly hear the assumption that millennials don’t have to work because their parents pay for everything, or they are just outright lazy and don’t have a good work ethic. This contradicts the fact that I have had to work since I was 17 to support myself. It contradicts that I know people my age who have to work a minimum of two jobs to pay their bills. Whether it was the ‘60s, ‘90s or last year, there have always been more fortunate kids with wealthy parents who don’t have to worry about paying the bills while they are in school and kids who have to work hard. It’s just different decades. The big difference between generations now is technology, which is a key point for older people in arguing that millennials and Gen Zers just suck.
Other generations argue they succeeded without the aide of technology, so therefore millennials are more corrupt and ignorant. There is something to acknowledge with the constant use of technology. It is changing the way humans interact, communicate and relate with one another. It is changing language, economic and social structures. Now, we have to worry about the truth and integrity of a news source because we know it is possible for news to be inaccurate or biased. Now, we have to be aware of how much time we spend on screens. Technology and its highly complex and integrated relationship with humans is not a question of what generation, but a question for every single person in modern society.
It is hard to imagine the future and how it will look since it seems every five years there is some new device or advance that alters how we live our everyday lives. From face recognition software to the voice-activated virtual assistants, it appears we are getting closer to living like the Jetsons every day. What is clear is the repetitive theme of blaming or complaining about a younger generation. Yes, our generation is expected to complain about our future kids when they graduate from college and enter the workforce, but if we recognize this trend now, we can put a stop to its degrading narrative in the future.
It is clear that being a millenial or Gen Zer is not the end of the world. Our differences from past generations ultimately make us stronger: our push for diversity and equality, our advocation of queer and transgender rights and our ability to synthesize technology with corporate success. We are only criticized and ridiculed by older generations because that’s the way it has always been. Now, what can set millennials and Gen Zers apart from past generations is our ability to dismantle the negative inclination to blame younger generations in the future. Change starts with us. One day we will be CEOs, parents and grandparents — we will be the past generation.