Although every generation is degraded by those that came before, it seems like mine is particularly reviled. Just about everyone complains about Millennials. No one has anything nice to say about us in the home, in the workplace, or in the greater social sphere. It’s gotten so bad that most Millennials I know have taken to trashing ourselves. I get that we rub some people the wrong way, but there is no way that we’re anywhere near as bad as everyone makes us out to be. This may be my own personal bias as a Millennial who is primarily friends with other Millennials, but I think my generation is just misunderstood. There are certain misconceptions about Millennials that I find particularly frustrating:
1. We’re Lazy
So you expect us to work significantly longer hours for significantly less pay than any other generation since the early Industrial Era, but you think that we’re lazy? Right, because that makes sense. My generation has taken the effort to get better educated and earn more advanced degrees at a younger age than any before because we’re oh so lazy. Sure. We just look like we’re not doing anything because we get work done faster since we’re more competent at using technology.
2. We Don’t Have Skills
I keep hearing that my generation doesn’t have the skills necessary to succeed. What skills are you talking about? I seem to recall having to show older people how to use Gmail on a regular basis. And how to work with search engines. And where the power button is. Sure, we may not be able to do simple math like calculating a tip, but isn’t that what the calculator on your phone is for? Not to mention, I’ve seen you leaving below 10%, I don’t think you know how to calculate a tip either.
3. We’re Poor Communicators
Supposedly, we aren’t good at communicating with others. I think it’s just that we communicate faster and more efficiently. Have you seen how fast we can text? We can get our point across with three letters and an emoji before you’ve finished your first word. We also communicate with all of our social media friends and contacts simultaneously, rather than with just one person at a time. If you communicate more information to one person or less information to more people, you’re still communicating the same amount; it’s just divided differently.
4. We Invented The Selfie
Millennials have certainly popularized the term selfie. Millennials certainly do take an endless stream of selfies. People were taking selfies long before us, though. Have you ever been forced to sit through a slide show of a family vacation? It’s basically a series of photos of a family posing in front of a bunch of landmarks. That’s what a selfie is, albeit with more primitive technology. You do something cool, and then take a photo of yourself so you can prove to other people that you did something cool. That’s nothing new.
5. We’re Self-Obsessed
This one is probably fairer than the others. Millennials are pretty self-obsessed. From what I’ve seen though, we’re no more self-obsessed than any other generation; we may just be more open about it. We may have been raised in an environment where everybody gets a trophy just for showing up to practice, but you were the ones who loudly demanded that YOUR kid was special and deserved a trophy. We got it from somewhere. Millennials talk about ourselves, post about ourselves, and are out for ourselves. Everyone else also talks about themselves, posts about themselves, and is out for themselves. I’ve had enough interactions with people of all ages to tell you definitively that self-obsession is a universal human trait, not a Millennial trait.
6. We Think We Deserve Everything Handed To Us
Back to point one, Millennials work long hours for little pay. We typically end up with the most demeaning, menial, bottom-of-the-totem-pole jobs and assignments. You told us the way to succeed was to get an education, get an internship, get a job. We did that. We’ve done everything that we were told to do. We’ve put in the legwork. We’re willing to work for what we get, but we do expect to be rewarded for our work. You expect us to work a 50-hour week and only give us 10 days off for an entire year; we expect you to pony up the raises and promotions. We’ll get your coffee and set your appointments for a while, but we expect bigger and better things are just around the corner. That’s not deserving. That’s earning.
7. We Can’t Commit To Relationships
Many of us can’t seem to commit to relationships, but many of us are very happily married, engaged, or involved with a long-term, serious significant other. While my generation in general clearly puts less emphasis on marriage and family than those in the past, I suspect that has more to do with it being more acceptable now than our actual feelings. It used to be that everyone was expected to do the family life in the burbs and the kids thing, but now I think there is a general acceptance that that life just isn’t for everybody. Besides, my generation certainly isn’t the only one who can’t commit. I don’t think that AshleyMadison.com or any of the other websites designed to help cheating spouses hook up was created for 20-somethings. I also know plenty of 40 year-old bachelors and bachelorettes who value their career so highly that they’ve never settled down.
8. We Constantly Demand Positive Feedback
There is the perception that Millennials always want to hear how great we’re doing. While it’s always nice to receive praise, what we really want is constant feedback, positive, negative, or neutral. I know that I certainly like to hear how everything that I’ve written is. I want to know what worked well, what didn’t work well, what you liked, what you didn’t like. Our parents, teachers, and coaches have given us constant feedback and coaching for our entire lives. We are dedicated to constant improvement. If we don’t hear what you think, we’re going to think we did poorly.
9. We’re Not Loyal To Our Employers
Sure, we leave for the next best thing as soon as we get an opportunity. Why the hell wouldn’t we? Are you telling me I should turn down a chance to make more money and/or further my career right now for the possibility that I will make more money and further my career at some undefined point in the future? Yeah, just no. That’s not loyalty. That’s stupidity. Plus, how can you expect us to show any loyalty. We’ve never seen you show us any. We’ve seen our parents work at the same place for years, only to get laid off for “budgetary” reasons while the executive team collects huge bonuses. I’ve never really seen loyalty to a company pay off for anyone in the long term. If you have a chance, you’ve got to take it. You may never get another. If you want to keep us, give us the same opportunity. We’ll stay loyal if you offer the same or a better deal.
10. We’re Not Interested In Social And Political Issues
The perception is that Millennials care more about the latest celebrity gossip or Internet meme than the “important” things that are going on or improving the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Millennials volunteer and donate to charitable causes at significantly higher rates than any other generation. We register and vote at rates at similar rates to other generations. We’re largely responsible for swinging the last two presidential elections in favor of Obama. We tend to hold very strong political beliefs. We’re much more likely to place high importance on making a difference in the world and having a job with meaning. If anything, Millennials are more interested in social and political issues than other generations.
The truth is that no matter what you think of Millennials, you’re going to have to get used to us. We’re not just the future anymore. We are the now. In just a few years, we’ll be the largest generation in the work force, we’ll be the largest generation of voters, and we’ll be the ones who have the greatest influence over culture, art, science, technology, business, and politics. It’s going to be a Millennial world, and everyone else is just going to have to live in it.