Millennials: Responses to grandpa’s groans

My least favorite thing about being categorized as a millennial is the sigh from the Baby Boom Generation or Generation X accompanying their complaint that our lives have only changed because of social media. I would consider these new sorts of platforms for expression and sharing a fairly significant component of my life, but to label them as the defining factor of my generation is marginalizing and, more importantly, really irritating.

  Like most of the student body reading this, I was born fairly close to the cutoff point of the “millennial” generation. The generation label is open to anyone born between the early 1980s to the mid-2000s, and I’m edging toward the end of this range. I’m hardly an expert on this generation. But what I do know, from bits of experience and countless Time and Forbes articles, is that a mass of research describes today’s 13-33-year-olds as reflective, inclusive, and innovative. The inclusive label is perhaps the most telling, as today’s youth are a very diverse and open population. Additionally, though this seems to irritate older generations to no end, we’ve also been impressive at making occupations out of the most trivial of interests (for example, the man behind Denny’s social media, Kevin Purcer, is praised for his work providing hilarious responses to inquisitive fans on Tumblr and affable tweets on Twitter). Though very few make this point, we’re also the most educated generation of young adults ever, which is a trait we want to use for the best.

I agree that the increased presence of technology has made certain aspects of adolescence easier, but today’s young adults are presented with problems that computers and phones can’t easily fix. Student loan debt has skyrocketed (though higher education doesn’t always ensure employment), terrorism is a high threat that has grown increasingly impossible to combat, and climate concerns are still being dismissed as alarmist. This is not to say that my generation deserves special treatment or that we face more problems than another generation, but people should keep all of this in mind when they decide to dismiss the largest generation in the world. Even with this new wave of obstacles, the world has evolved so that the people who are trying to make a difference are able to do so. We can look up to people like Melinda and Bill Gates, who have changed our views on philanthropy by donating over $50 billion, or even to people of our own generation, like Malala Yousafzai, who deserves the international fame she has received for staying strong in the face of danger.

Statistics are supposed to be definitive, but when used to compare millennials to previous generations, they’re anything but. Some books are favorable and raving of millennials, while others consider us narcissistic. According to some sources, millennials can be described with simply three words: “the me generation.” An argument I’ve heard fairly often is the fact that young adults have high expectations, which makes us deserving of our nickname. The evidence most likely comes from complaints about how college is seemingly becoming less and less necessary, but I’m going to add another fact to this: we’re also the most optimistic generation on record. This is by no means a defense of millennials, nor is it a criticism. Like long-distance relationships and international trade issues, extensive data collections of a generation that spans 20 years are complicated. I think that statistics lie, and that we need a reputable study conducted nationwide before we can even give this generation an epithet. The fact that the Internet cannot decide on a conclusive cut-off date (I’ve used official White House documents to decide) should be a sign as to how we should approach this topic. Considering the tail-end of the millennial generation has yet to reach high school, it might also be important to wait some time and allow people born in the late 1990s and early 2000s to emerge into the “real world” before we’re judged as a whole. Adults, let us get a taste of the world before you ridicule us. Remember that you were once this age, and especially that the youth are products of the world in which they are raised.