It seems like there are a lot of articles floating about the internet these days about that horrid group of young folk labeled “millennials.” One article in particular summed up the atrocities of this odious group of upstarts, saying millennials have killed 29 things in the year 2016 alone. Among the 29 items listed were handshakes, bars of soap, the wine, hotel,and napkin industries, the Olympics, McDonald’s Mcwrap and Big Mac, Canadian tourism, the Mexican internet, democracy, the EU, and all of America!
Apparently millennials have been quite busy.
But hold on there, Chicken Little! Before we go out and buy up all the dehydrated turkey from Ted’s Army Surplus and head for an underground bunker, perhaps we should stop and contemplate whether these accusations are valid. Perhaps we should consider that maybe, just maybe, there might actually be some good in the millennial segment of society.
Since I have three and a half millennials living in my house (child number 4 is kind of on the edge generation wise,) and since I know quite a few millennials who are friends with the millennials living in my house, I have had many opportunities to interact with this group of young folk. Here is what I’ve observed.
Millennials are lazy. Millennials are hard workers. Both statements are true because millennials, like every generation, have their slackers and their workers. Most of the millennials I personally know are workers. They are driven. They want to succeed in life and make a difference in the world. They are intelligent, well-educated and have an entrepreneurial spirit. Like the founders of Ipsy, Summly, Tumblr, Mashable, dotloop, and Snapchat, all million dollar businesses started by millennials, the millennials I know are building, creating, and working to make their dreams come true.
One millennial acquaintance put himself through college, earning a degree in industrial engineering. After graduation, he worked as a manager at a power plant, frequently putting in 70 to 80 hours a week. Several years later, with a chunk of money tucked away in the bank, he decided he wanted to pursue his real passion, producing music. So he left his job and is now working night and day to make a name for himself in the music industry. He also rebuilds motorcycles and classic cars in his spare time (whenever that may be.) This young man is anything but lazy and lacking in ambition, and I know others like him.
Another area in which millennials get smacked is technology. Millennials are often stereotyped as slovenly gamers and iphone addicts. How often do we see older folk shaking their heads when they see a millennial on his phone or wearing earbuds? But it’s incorrect to assume that listening to music, chatting with their friends, and playing games is all that millennials do. They do crack a book (or maybe a Kindle) from time to time. And all that interaction with technology is building knowledge that can be applied in the workplace, opening up job opportunities that older folk are unqualified for because their aging minds are unfamiliar with 21st century technology.
Many of the moms and dads I know tell stories of how they’ve become stumped when using their computers and have had to call in their kids for assistance. I can’t tell you how many times my own computer has frozen and after spending 10, 20, 30 minutes or more trying to fix it I give in and call one of my sons for help. Within a minute he has my computer up and running again. Whether we older folks like it or not, we have entered a new era that is technologically driven, and those quick minded millennials are going to be the movers and shakers of this era.
Millennials are also creative. In music, film, and even in something as simple as their mode of dress, millennials reveal a flare for the artistic. In my day, we pretty much just wore jeans and T-shirts, and had layered haircuts. But millennials are not satisfied with such boring accoutrements. They wear chinos, skinny jeans, leggings, scarves, hats, vests, suspenders, bow ties, skinny ties, boots, sneakers, oxfords, loafers, and more. They love to experiment with hair color and styles, and body art has become huge, showing that these young folk have a strong desire for self expression.
One of the avenues of millennial expression that has caught my interest is spoken word poetry. No more “Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you” for this younger generation. Sarah Kay, one of the foremost spoken word poets, expresses her thoughts in a similar fashion to a stand up comic, standing on stage and speaking with feeling and enthusiasm. Here is an excerpt from B (If I should Have A Daughter):
If I should have a daughter… instead of “Mom”
she’s gonna call me “Point B.”
Because that way she knows that no matter what happens,
at least she can always find her way to me.
And I’m going to paint the solar system on the back of her hands
so that she has to learn the entire universe before she can say
“Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.”
Spoken word poet, Sarah Kay
But I think the best characteristic of millennials, is the way they view people. Millennials are more inclusive and willing to accept people, all people, than some members of the older generations. Some members of Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Traditionalist generations have a harder time relating to, and finding good in, people who look differently, are culturally and religiously diverse, or live lifestyles that oppose their personal beliefs. Millennials as a whole tend to grasp that even though an individual’s views differ from their own, and even if that individual lives a lifestyle that they personally believe is wrong, that that person is still a human being and should be treated with kindness, respect, and friendship. They seem to understand more than my generation that people are won with kindness and compassion and truth spoken lovingly, rather than with criticism, condemnation, and rejection.
It’s common for older generations to look at younger generations and only see the bad. I remember my parent’s generation saying rock and roll was from the devil, and several generations before that the older folk said hymns, sung by my parents generation, were wicked because they were sung to bar tunes. When something is new and unfamiliar, and when it is introduced by a group of young people, the older generations tend to take a “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” perspective.
Are there some bad things about millennials? Sure. But the truth is that there is good and bad in every generation because every generation is really the same. We are all humans. Humans who do both good and bad.
And there is one other thing that we older folk should remember about millennials. We were the ones who raised them. Millennials learned about the world from us. So if they’re bad, we had a hand in making them so.
I am choosing to look at the good in millennials. It’s there. In abundance. I’ve seen it. Yes, they are changing the world. And yes, some antiquated objects and ways of doing things are disappearing, but in their place are new and exciting inventions that could very well make our lives easier and more pleasant.
It might be true that the world is doomed, but I’m not planning on heading for an underground bunker any time soon. And if the day does come, as I’m gathering my dehydrated turkey, I won’t be blaming the world’s demise on millennials.