Why millennials don’t exist

Elizabeth Wheless, Staff Writer

We’ve all seen the headlines. “Millennials are ruining…” [insert archaic industry here] and “Why millennials are a problem”, on and on and on. The word “millennial” has become a bit of a joke. People make Vines (well, made Vines) and Instagram posts about the humor of millennials. How they are petty, self-absorbed, materialistic, easily disturbed. All of these add up to create the running joke that is millennialism. However, and this might come as a shock to most, but millennials don’t exist.

“Of course they exist, they’re people,” you say. “How can you say that people don’t exist?” Obviously, 20 year-olds exist. I mean that the stereotypical image of millennials doesn’t exist. The selfie-taking, lazy, entitled millennial is as fictional as universal coexistence. Calling it a “generation” is untrue as well. There are millennials that have kids who are millennials. Same goes for Baby Boomers and all other generations. Generations don’t happen in nature, we as humans made them up.

How did generations come about? It must mean something if it sums 75.4 million people into one group. Despite this…nope. There’s no governmental branch or program that deals with what to name generations. No secret service of ages. Nearly anyone can coin a generational name. Magazines, newspapers, TV shows, random weirdos on the internet. If it gets popular, it stays. In 1992, “The Atlantic”, a Massachusetts magazine, tried their hand at naming the new generation. They tried “Thirteeners” for the now Generation X. The names mean little. They are simply ways for corporations to get a hold of more people and to advertise accordingly.

“In terms of market research, marketers and brands like being able to have labels to describe people,” journalist and author of “Buyographics: How Demographic and Economic Changes Will Reinvent the Way Marketers Reach Consumers”, Matt Carmichael said. “It helps to be able to communicate with them and to them.”

This seems like a bad move for marketing officials, because, honestly, the images they put out of the “average, hip, totally relatable” millennial are horrid. When was the last time you looked at an ad for JC Penney, or heck, Obamacare, and thought “That’s exactly what I look like! I totally want to buy insurance now!” The stereotypes of millennials created by the media and the use of them in ads don’t make millennials want to buy the product. So, why are they used so often?

In all truth, generational characteristics are just ways we can show our prejudices against those people in the age group. Millennials are often called the “Peter Pan” generation because they are thought to live longer with their parents at home. If that’s the case, the Homeowner’s Association must be Neverland because with our current economy, millennials will never-land on their feet if they decide to buy a home. These nicknames for an already fake group of people are often made for the purpose of bad mouthing those in the group. They’re seldom for actual purpose.

We could say that those born from 1920 to 1940 are the Clarinet Generation because they grew up with jazz clarinet music. That’s true, but it doesn’t do any good to further our knowledge of those people and their human qualities. Just like calling those born from 1980 to 2000 “millennials” doesn’t do anything. The men who coined “millennials” are Neil Howe and William Strauss. Their reason, is one that I can’t seem to get a grip of.

“…kids of the day were being raised with so much structure and protection compared to the generations that immediately preceded them — both Gen X and their mostly Baby Boomer parents — that they were destined to leave a very different mark,” said Howe for a Forbes article.

So…just because our parents cared about us and didn’t let us play with rusty forks, that means that we’re “sheltered”? Sorry, Mr. Howe, for not contracting tetanus. The “structure” Howe is in reference to is the almighty and ever-present participation trophy. The praise for showing up. I don’t know about you readers, but I have never received a participation trophy from anywhere else but people who are far older than me. You know, the generation that’s complaining about them? Yeah, they gave them to me.

I’m not stupid. I know the difference between participation and first place. I know that I want to work harder than Honorable Mention. The beauty of Honorable Mention is that it tells me I do have what it takes to make it to first. It’s the push I need to get better. That participation trophy is the starting point to a gold medal.

Due to the fact that I work my butt off every day to live up to unrealistic standards I create for myself, it really makes me mad when I’m told that millennials are lazy. You’d think that if so many older people said we were lazy, they must be right, right? Don’t make me laugh. Ha. No. This whole “the new generation sucks” act has been going on forever. An ancient Greek economist, Hesiod, around 750 BC, was quoted saying this about the “newest” generation,

“They only care about frivolous things. When I was a boy, we were taught to be [discreet] and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly… impatient of restraint.”

Well, darn. This sounds like every old person ever. It’s just something that’s been drilled into us. Heck, we as upperclassmen even sound like this talking about the freshmen at times.

We shouldn’t act like any other generation, because we’re not every other generation. We should be more accepting of those younger than us. Let’s be the generation that breaks the cycle of tweeners growing up knowing that older people hate them for no reason. Let’s support instead of demean. Let’s grow as a generation, as people, instead of reverting to the standard that we have been taught.

There is an image of millennials as unattached to reality, frivolous and naive. This is simply not true. What is true is that millennials are the most educated generation in history. Thirty four percent of millennials have bachelor’s degrees, despite college debts being at an all time high. We overcome adversity by our population being 30 percent new minorities. We work together to speak our minds, change rules that are meant to harm others, and challenge the world around us to always improve. Millennials, we’re freaking awesome. Remember that.