What are millennials? Well, type millennials are into Google and the suggested searches will say millennials are lazy, millennials are selfish and, quite simply, millennials are the worst. Change are to do and it’s no better. Millennial’s don’t want to work and - strangely - millennial’s don’t eat cereal.
So according to Google, public perceptions of Millennials aren't very positive - in fact they’re offensive enough to make a millennial reading over breakfast spit out their coco pops in disgust. But are they wrong? And if so, what is to be gained from setting them straight?
First off, Millennials, also known as Generation Y, is the name given to the generation born in the period ranging roughly between 1980 and 2000. They follow other generations such as ‘Baby boomers’, the name given to those born between 1946 and 1964, and Generation X, born between 1965 and 1979. It’s a word that is becoming popular, beginning to trend more, and it rarely introduces a compliment; as usual the easiest sure-fire way to make a negative theory worse is to give it a catchy, media friendly name. Millennial is generally found as a prelude to a lot of negative feedback on students and young workers, from ideas as superficial as they spend too much time on social media, to accusations as damaging as a perceived lack of work ethic and an arrogant and narcissistic sense of entitlement.
Such outright criticisms, although strong, are easy, less because of when Millennials were born and more because of the age that makes them now. Millennials can often be found at a stage of life where employment isn't a guarantee, lifestyles are not built around rigid routine, and commitments, for better or worse, are not yet established. It’s easy then to criticise, to put this stage of life down to a lack of motivation or effort, and forget that generational terms like millennial actually have as little value or substance as the term ‘noughties’.
In this generation a lack of interest in politics has been mirrored by a lack of interest in religion; but this does not mean, as has been accused, that there is a lack of interest in anything beyond the periphery of a smartphone screen.
Perhaps it’s an assumed inferiority for having lived through such an easy period of technological advancement, automatically less worthy than, say, living through a war. Certainly it’s easy for older generations to scoff at certain luxuries and qualities of life that the modern world provides it's young people – easier to bemoan the selfie generation than to admit that if the same technology had been available in their youth then their own photo albums would look starkly different. But what comes easier to young people today should not completely overshadow the many big things that have become more difficult. Levels of student loan debt and unemployment are higher in this generation, and wage rates are lower.
There are certain undeniable traits for this new generation. A lack of interest in politics has been mirrored by a lack of interest in religion; but this does not mean, as has been accused, that there is no interest in anything beyond the periphery of a smartphone screen. This is where the real issues arise, because although these assumptions, false as they might be, are not necessarily hindering – after all, what generation doesn't give out about the other? – they are harmful when they are brought into the workplace; when younger employees are treated differently, tarnished with the so-called failings of a generation, assumed to be unwilling to work hard or unable to know anything beyond the age in which they have grown up in.At times, millennials are spoken about or spoken too as though they don’t understand the real world. When Hilary Clinton tweeted last year: ‘How does your student loan debt make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less’ it was the equivalent of talking goo-goo-gaga to a four year old.
If the world stopped looking at millennials like this, stopped associating them most with the things they dislike or do not understand about them, they could instead embrace the countless attributes millennials share with the generations that came before them, and indeed the wonderful, unique qualities they are adding to them. Because when it comes to what Millennials really are, and what really makes them different, it's as simple as the fact that they are currently the people aged twenty to thirty.