Sunday, October 18, 2015

Millennials: These are not the assholes you are looking for...

Caramel Apple Spice
Egg Salad Sandwich

Okay, I'm going free-rant today.  As in, I am uncharacteristically under-read on this subject, so I'm going to draw on my experience being a "Gen Xer" and just BS straight from the gut.  So...

To everyone over-analyzing and over-criticizing the Millennial generation: please shut the fuck up.

I am right at the tail-end of the previous generation which, depending on who you're asking, extends to anyone born under any president from Kennedy to Carter.  I distinctly remember all the angst over my generation, all the generic criticisms of the older generation against this younger, wilder - different - generation.  We were called everything - lost, free, apathetic, self-centered, chaotic, idiotic, juvenile - almost none of it was flattering.  There was a lot of trying to figure out what we were all about, what we valued, what the hell was wrong about us, and finally, what we were going to buy.

All the chatter about Millennials sounds about the same.  Some of the features - the memes - are different.  But it's all just a bunch of the old generation trying to figure out the kids today; and, again, trying to figure out what they're going to buy.

So, let's get something straight... Millennials are not just a bunch of entitled, over-sharing, little twerps.  What you're picking up on are the featured assholes of this particular generation.

There are trends particular to each generation, not just in fashion or technology, but in thinking, as well.  There are larger forces faced by each generation - wars, debts, climate, and other cataclysms - that influence their thinking and behavior.  And changes in all aspects of life have been increasing exponentially over the last several generations, which can make each successive generation feel further and further from the previous one's understanding.

But we're all still the same people we've always been.  We are complex and varied.  We're raised steeping in the values of our parents' generation.  We still tend to come out a lot like them.  Or we fight to be nothing like them.  Either way, we are more heavily influenced by them than they seem to want to accept.  There's no need to feel anxious or estranged from each other just because we don't get each other's pop culture references.  We probably get more than we think, and could understand even more about each other if we stopped acting like the proverbial old man shaking his selfie stick at the trains.

Let's not forget that many of these "Generations" are still living and evolving side-by-side.  There's a lot of overlap in behaviors and influences.  It's not only Millennials that are getting tattoos and smartphones and driving less.  Any values or behaviors ascribed to them are neither exclusive to them, nor universal among them.  So stop saying things like, "Millennials are..." whatever disparaging adjective you feel like sticking in there.  And, for the love of humanity, stop fretting over what Millennials are going to buy.  If that's part of your job description, just ask yourself what any person under these structural forces is likely to do, and you'll be a lot closer to a useful answer than trying to divine how the inner angst of these kids today might manifest in the financial markets.