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The Myth of the Millennial and Why You Probably Believe It



Are you familiar with the term Millennial?

Do you use it regularly yourself?

You may want to give it a rest. It might not mean what you think it does.

The fact is, most people have a very clear idea of what a Millennial is and most of them are wrong. That’s because the only characteristic that Millennials actually share is that they were all born roughly between 1981 and 1996.

Generations

The Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, Generation Z (or Digitals, depending who you ask), these are the generations currently stomping around the world. These generations range from people born in the early twentieth century to people born today.

So, what is a generation?

Some people would tell you it is a grouping of people born within a timeframe of around 15 to 25 years. If it stopped there, there wouldn’t be a problem. However, things get messy when people try to ascribe certain characteristics to that grouping of people. When age is the only factor that links people, it is preposterous to assume they would all exhibit similar behavior independent of culture, economic background, and religious beliefs just to name a few. It’s not just that the modern conception of the Millennial is a myth, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the concept of generations itself is a myth.

A Bit of History

Where did the idea of generations come from?

As with most manmade delineations between people, generations came from a group of people wanting to feel more special than everyone else. It is the same, “We are special because we are us” mentality that many believe to be the genesis of race (and racism). People choose to identify with their contemporaries as if life was a game of pick-up basketball, and we’ve been doing it ever since.

Later, the idea was propagated by those who still benefit from it the most today; marketers.



Generational Marketing

Marketing is largely about demographics. What are generations if not demographics? They suggest a large group of people will act a certain way based on a unifying feature. Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it isn’t.

Currently, in an age where the ‘click’ is king, Millennials are taking most of the fire. It’s not a bad strategy. If you’re not a Millennial, you’re likely to click on an article about them to confirm your previously held biases. If you are a Millennial, you’re likely to click on an article about them because you feel defensive. It’s nothing new.

In the 60s and 70s, the Baby Boomers were looked down upon by the Greatest Generation because they were seen as lazy, narcissistic hippies. In the 80s and 90s, Gen Xers were looked down upon by the Baby Boomers for being grungy, lazy narcissist. Now, both Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are looking down upon Millennials as being (you guessed it) lazy narcissists. The pattern isn’t hard to recognize. However, playing on generational divides proved to be an effective way to sell papers, magazines, and all kinds of other different products.

Every prior generation thinks they had it worse than the current generation because it makes them feel better about themselves. The criticisms don’t even change much from one generation to the next. It’s always laziness, entitlement, and self-centeredness.

Fun fact: Millennials make less than their predecessors for the same kind of jobs despite being more qualified.

The Point

Are Millennials lazy?

Some of them.

Are Millennials entitled?

Some of them.

Are Millennials self-centered?

Well actually, there’s a philosophical argument that it’s impossible not to be self-centered. Any action you take would be to have an outcome you desire occur, regardless of the reason; thereby making a selfless act impossible.

But…to speak more to the spirit of the question; let’s just say “Some of them.”

There’s only one question that wouldn’t return with the answer of “Some of them,” and that’s “Are Millennials a group of people roughly between the ages of 22 and 38?”

Stereotypes are often offensive. Make no mistake; the myth of ‘The Millennial’ is a stereotype.

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