Thought Catalog
July 10, 2014

4 Things That Are Wrong (And Right) About The Millennial Generation

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What is the issue?

Millennials, Generation Y, the “me” generation, there are several names for the generation I was born into. There are seemingly just as many opinions on what is wrong with my generation as names for it. I feel that there are a lot of great aspects of Generation Y that are often overlooked.

I was born in the middle of 1992, and grew up in a small town with a sister 22 months older than me. In my hometown, you played outside in the summer and rode bikes with friends. We all knew to be home when the street lights came on, and we enjoyed ABC’s Disney movies at 6PM on Sunday evenings. I am from a farming community in Illinois, so some of my favorite memories are days spent exploring my Papa’s farm with my sister, or walking beans in his fields for a couple of dollars or an ice-cold soda in a boot-shaped cup. We got a desktop computer (with dial-up) in our house in 5th grade, AOL in 7th, and I got my first cell phone on my 14th birthday.

Millennials across the country grew up in different cities, states, and family dynamics, so obviously our experiences were not all the same. What is the same, however, is the fact that technology has advanced exponentially in our short lifetime. I believe that this is an extremely important fact in our makeup, because we knew a somewhat simpler life before things like iPads and 4G, but we also grew up always anticipating the newest thing. Our exposure to growing technology is a double edged sword, just like many of the things that are considered so awful about us. So, while this list is not actually everything

right and wrong with my generation, it is much of it.

1. We are impatient.

The bad: Because we grew up constantly seeing upgrades of materialistic items, (VHS to DVDS to Blu-ray etc.) we are always wanting the best thing out there, whether that is the newest Apple device or the best job we can have. Many Millennials find themselves hopping from job to job, never quite happy with where they are in their life. We tend to think that if things are not moving at a fast enough pace, there is no progress being made. Since we have seen so much change in such a short time, it is hard for my generation to get that sometimes things take time. A job might not be your dream job, but by being patient and working hard, another opportunity can and will present itself. Generation Y, in general, tends to rely on instant gratification too much.

The Good: The right kind of impatience leads to action. For four years, I have been involved with a student leadership organization started in 2003 by 4 college freshman who refused to wait for the change they wanted to see to happen. Students Today Leaders Forever’s (STLF) mission is to inspire leadership through service, relationships and action. If those four students hadn’t been impatient for change, thousands of students throughout the country would not have had the opportunity to serve others and become more productive citizens. I see that my generation is full of dreams and ideas, and our impatience can lead us to improving ourselves and the future if we use it correctly.

2. We are dreamers.

The Bad: Unfortunately, having big dreams does not mean anything if you do not back it up. My generation tends to spend a lot of time dreaming, because we see Cinderella stories in the news or on Facebook every day. Want to be a billionaire? You can dream about being the next Mark Zuckerberg all you want, but unless the idea is good, and backed by hard work and dedication you will never achieve it. The fact of the matter is, we’re often too complacent with being lazy and not going after our dreams.

The Good: We are not afraid to want something and to have high hopes for our futures. We want to travel and see the world, to have experiences that we have never had before, and to get the most out of life. Because Gen Y is not shy about having dreams and goals, we have the potential to overcome many obstacles our nation and future face. The key to turning our dreams to reality is in us.

3. We know what we want.

The Bad: Growing up, my generation was told that we can be whatever we want to be. Our parents encouraged us having an opinion on even little things. Having a view on a topic and knowing what we wanted was a good thing. We were encouraged to go after what we wanted and were often rewarded for trying. The downside of this is that Gen Y can be entitled because we are so used to getting what we want or think we deserve that we act spoiled and bratty. I have an acquaintance that had school, as well as her apartment and car, completely paid for by her parents. This is not actually new to me; a lot of my friends are lucky enough to not have to take out loans for college, but they all show at least some gratitude. If your family can afford that, that’s great. What is different about this acquaintance is that, upon graduating, she continued to live on her parent’s money without showing any sign of wanting a job or to pay for her apartment herself. When asked why she was not job searching, she legitimately responded that she should not have to. Apparently the fact that her parents had worked hard to reach a decent financial state meant that she deserved access to that money as well just by being their daughter. This is pure entitlement. The other big problem with knowing what we want is the way my generation sometimes becomes selfish in believing that we deserve what we want and should do anything to get it.

The Good: We are often unafraid to stand up for what we believe in. I have seen more people my age stand up for the things they are really passionate about than I ever would have imagined in my tween and high school years. As my generation ages, we become bolder and harder to silence. Overall, we believe in things like equality and justice, and are willing to fight to get them. Knowing what we want can give us the confidence we need to be bold and successful in both our professional and personal lives.

4. We are tech-savvy.

<strong<The Bad: I truly believe that technology brings out the worst in my generation. The constant want for more and better leads to us living a kind of rat race where we never have enough and are never good enough. Much of this can be traced to all the changes we have seen in our lifetime. People slightly older than us were adults when technology started changing, so they have had a harder time adjusting, and can more easily remember a time when not everyone had a cell phone or a computer. The kids being born in this century are so used to technology it does not even faze them. They can use an iPad, play Xbox, and navigate a computer and satellite TV by age 3 or 4. Don’t believe me? Baby-sit a few of these kids and you will what I mean. We are stuck somewhere in the middle; we spent a lot more time outside as kids, but we also spent a lot of time pining for the new IPod Nano, or a DVD player, or to get DSL internet.

Because of our unique relationship with technology, we have become addicted to it. I go out with friends and we spend half the night on Facebook. We do not talk to each other and enjoy the time we have together the way we should. I am just as guilty of it, and I hate it. The fact that we would rather text each other than spend time together, and I’m not talking about at a bar or party, says a lot about our generation. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Gen Y and technology is social media. We have these false lives we put online. We take the best and worst aspects of our lives and shove them out there for everyone to see how fun and cool and exciting we are. We spend quiet nights alone in front of a screen pining to be at that party, bar, concert, beach.

It is so easy to compare ourselves and feel awful about who we are on social media. I’ve been on several service spring break trips, and we go all over the country and do service. It never fails to make me kind of sad when we are at a pristine beach in Alabama, or the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, or watching a perfect sunset in Delaware and everyone has to get a million pictures of it. Standing on a dock in Delaware this March, I was struck by how beautiful the sunset was with the lake mirroring it perfectly. The water was like glass and the sun orange. There was a stillness and beauty that caught my breath, and yet we were all so distracted taking pictures. I admit I took a couple of the beautiful view, but I also just wanted to tell everyone to stop, put down the phones and cameras, and take a mental picture, because this moment with these people and this day would never happen again whether we had a picture of it or not. Life is so much more beautiful in real life, so we need to stop living behind a screen.

The Good: We have an advantage over Generation X and the Baby Boomers in that for the most part, technology is second nature to us. We are the generation who will have the great ideas to advance us economically and hopefully civically over the next several decades. My generation can also use our social media presence for good. It is easy to grab the attention of the world when information is widely available online. I have several friends who have raised money for great things, and much of their funding came from online support.

My generation is full of potential. We are loud and opinionated, passionate and impatient, and we will not be silenced. I love being a part of Generation Y, because I believe in us; I believe in our strengths and confidences and that they will help us to grow into better citizens and adults than we are given credit for. Yes we have our thorns just like any other generation, but we also have our many roses. Gen Y is just starting to enter into more serious jobs as the youngest of us finish college and head out into the workforce. We are guaranteed to make mistakes, and some of them will be big. We have a lot of work to do, but if we focus on our positive, I truly believe that Millennials can change the world. TC mark

featured image – The Social Network