I’ve never been a fan of labelling entire generations. Advertising agencies do not do the world a service by crafting such labels and passing them off as insight. It’s reductive and one loses the richness and texture of an era this way.
‘Millennials’ is just such a term. A word that is supposed to sum up in a tidy suitcase the complexities and uniqueness of a generation that is in fact more diverse in its opinions and talents than perhaps any other in human history.
Yours truly will never be found complaining and moaning about 20-somethings.
I do not think they’re self-entitled or lazy, I find them to be exceedingly hard working.
I don’t find their expectations to be unrealistic or outlandish, I find them to be quite sober yet ambitious about their prospects.
Their technological prowess is well-documented, but few people of the ineptly named Generation X and older talk about their prodigious creativity.
And no, I don’t think they’re all living in their parents’ basements waiting for a ship that will never come in while surfing porn and posting meaningless updates on Facebook. If some of them are still living at home, then I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re developing start-ups and installing servers in that very basement.
The most marked characteristic of this generation, if there is anything that might characterize them—is their ability to be inspired. Their sharp awareness of what’s happening in the world, combined with the refreshing absence of previous baggage, allows them to be open to ideas that are progressive, meaningful and inspiring. Free the Children and Me To We are products of this generation. So too kiva.org, an innovative micro-financing model. Facebook itself is the product of this generation. This generation does not say “Yeah, but…” it says, “Yes, and….”
If one is a leader of my generation (I’m in my 40s) and works with Millennials who are uninspired, then I contend it’s not their fault, it’s ours. They are so ready to be inspired, it does not take a Mahatma Gandhi to get them mobilized. Anything less is a failure of leadership. My work on developing Because I am a Girl and numerous other causes and movements, has given me ample evidence of this.
Perhaps this desire to be inspired is in fact what this generation has in common with previous generations of young adults. Nearly all of the major social movements in history were led, at least in part, by people in their late teens and 20s. It is the period in life when one is questioning the world, what came before, formulating one’s own ideas and acting upon them.
Therefore, even more important than their ability to be inspired, is the capacity of this generation to inspire others. Let us give praise, therefore, to those who came into their own during this millennium. In fact, by that definition, I too can proudly call myself a ‘Millennial’.