Busting Millennial Myths

The term ‘Millennials’ generally refers to the generation of people born between the early 1980s and 1990s, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Some people also include children born in the early 2000s. Due to the changes in technology, the economy and the world in general, our generation operates differently than the ones preceding us, but because of this there are several stereotypes and myths attached to millennials, our behaviours, and perspectives. And now it’s time to bust them.

“We’re the ‘me’ generation”

In 2010, a professor Dr. Keith Ablow went on Fox News and said, “We are raising a generation of deluded narcissists.” In 2013, Time claimed that Millennials are the “ME ME ME GENERATION” on the front cover of the magazine. The ‘Me Generation’ was a term initially used to describe parents of millennials – the baby boomers – and since then the term ‘Me Me Me Generation’ has been credited to a generation of “self-centered” Millennials. In an age of self-indulgent social media apps and countless selfies, we are consistently perceived as narcissistic and out of touch, but the biggest misconception is that we give out a sense of entitlement. These criticisms are mostly voiced by the baby boomer generation – that’s right, the one that raised us.  

One of the most frustrating parts of Joel Stein’s Time article is when he stated, They are informed but inactive: they hate Joseph Kony but aren’t going to do anything about Joseph Kony. Nothing could be further from the truth – you just need to go on social media to see countless millennials speaking out on countless social and political matters, and in reality, nobody would know about the most viral video ever if millennials didn’t make Kony go viral. Millennials don’t just use their online platforms to speak out – if you attended the Women’s March in January, you would have seen countless millennials with their handmade signs in a strong effort to protest social injustice. According to the Millennial Impact Report, millennials are twice as likely than other generations to invest in companies with a stated social or environmental impact, and 84 percent of employed millennials donated to charity in 2014. Millennials are also three times more likely than Baby Boomers to donate to a crowdfunding campaign and 70 percent more likely than Gen Xers.

“We’re constantly on our cell phones and addicted to social media”

Comic book writer Simon Rich once said, “There’s a tendency to accuse millennials of having shorter attention spans. I just think we have better stuff to look at.” There is a huge misconception surrounding millennials’ attention spans and their addiction to social media. Yes, most of us have become dependent on our phones, but not all of us are addicted to them. I remember waiting on my take-out order and I checked my phone for the first time in hours since I had been in class and at work, and so I had a lot of messages to catch up on. As I spent my time responding to them, an older woman approached me and complained of how my generation are glued to their phones. I remember feeling so enraged that she had made an assumption about me without knowing the first thing about me. Many people also assume that millennials no longer read, when a study from The Atlantic shows that 88 percent of American millennials younger than 30 said they read a book in the past year compared with 79 percent of those older than 30.

“We’re lazy and unemployed”

One of the biggest misconceptions about millennials is that we’re lazy, unmotivated and frequent job hoppers. In reality, however, stable jobs just aren’t as easy to come by and most of us don’t want to stay in one steady, mediocre job when we can find better opportunities elsewhere.

According to recent research, millennials prioritize job security over several over factors when it comes to employment, and because of this most millennials would prefer to work for themselves. Millennial Branding did a survey and found that 72% of high school students want to own a business someday, and that 61% would rather be entrepreneurs than employees right out of college. This gives off the impression to employers that we’re lazy and naive, and buying too much into the success stories of entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg and David Karp. In her TED Talk Corporate Fail: Millennials & Gen Z Entrepreneurial, speaker, author and entrepreneur Crystal Kadakia claims that “we’re entrepreneurial because we’re driven by YOLO – you only live once. YOLO means that we don’t want to waste our time doing things that we don’t enjoy, because in today’s world with today’s tools, we don’t have to.” Kadakia alludes to the fact that we have an infinite number of options to achieve our goals, which companies can’t provide us. What these employers don’t know is that we’re not just relying on the Mark Zuckerberg’s of the world for our inspiration, but the countless ordinary people we’re surrounded by everyday that are starting businesses online. From Lilly Singh to Justin Bieber, there is sufficient evidence that being successful with what you love to do doesn’t always equate to getting a 9-5 job. Platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Twitter have become new sources of exposure and are more than often used as portfolios.

“We’re promiscuous and non-committal”

In the age of Tinder, we’ve become known as the “hook up generation.” Not only are we perceived as sex obsessed, but we’re also perceived to be non-committal and uninterested in marriage. When we reach out early twenties we more than often hear the older generation remind us that “by your age I was married”, or constantly questioned of why we’re not settling down. Maybe it’s because we would rather establish our careers first or have more financial security… Despite this, according to the Pew Research Center 70% of millennials say they would like to be married one day, and 74% of millennials want children.

When it comes to Tinder, most millennials aren’t using it for the reasons you think. In a study conducted by LendEDU, 9,761 millennial college students about why they use the popular dating app 72% of them said they used Tinder at one point, but 44% said they use it for “confidence-boosting procrastination.” Over 70% of college students say they have not actually met up with anyone from the app.

“You can generalize us”

So maybe some of these myths can be applied to some millennials, but it’s wrong to make assumptions that we’re all the same. We’re a diverse generation and we cannot be generalized. As millennials, we may have a different approach to how things were done 20 or 30 years ago, but we’re also more socially engaged than ever, community oriented, and dedicated to pursuing goals that are not just about money but also about making a difference in the world around us.

What are your thoughts on millennials and the stereotypes attached to them? Let us know @RUStudentLife!