I was at a dinner party recently when someone almost 10 years younger than me exclaimed, “There’s no way I’m in the millennial generation. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 16!” It was not received as anything but truth. Everyone agreed.
It had a profound impact on me. I left that party depressed, irritated, and sick to my stomach, despite the fantastic food.
If you were born between the years of 1981 and 1996, you’re a millennial. And it’s a soft border, meaning you might be a millennial if you are born on either cusp. The millennial generation has an odd and bizarre stigma attached to it that is more historically repetitious than accurate. But what that comment from the person at the dinner party illuminates is the control that the previous generation has over millennials. And it’s not Gen X, it’s the Boomers, the only other generation that has equal number of people enveloped inside and they feel threatened as every previous generation of Americans has felt since the 1600’s.
The first Jamestown colony on the New Land that Britain had acquired in what is now Virginia was largely a bust. No crop other than tobacco had grown successfully there and England’s premier tobacco provider was still Spain. Spanish tobacco couldn’t be overthrown by a successor until the King decided to make an announcement that the tobacco from the New Land was much better. This was in an effort to revive his investment and the marketing worked.
As production had to increase the workers that were sent to Jamestown in the first place needed help. They wrote to the King to send some new workers. The King, resourceful as ever, sent a younger generation there, in order to ensure that the farm system was taught to a new group, sustaining his investment long term. Not long after their arrival the letters started pouring back in to him.
The colonists wrote that the new batch of young workers he sent were lazy, unable to be trained, didn’t listen, and were practically no help. This began the American way of complaining about the next generation in order to preserve your own dignity and posterity, as a new batch of individuals is sent to take over.
My grandfather thought my dad’s generation was a bunch of lazy long haired, pot smoking hippies who were glued to their hi- fi stereos. They were, but they also were catalysts for change, ushering in an era where people stood together for what is right. Protests formed for peace, equal rights, and individuality around the country. These are the same baby boomers who are now repressing and propagandizing the Millennials in the same way that they were by the Traditionalist or the Silent Generation.
Make no mistake, not everything since the 1600’s is repetition. This current generation grew up in a socially different time that causes more time in front of a screen than in front of anything else. But what is seldom argued is that the Millennial generation’s world is the world, they grew up inherently global and so there views seem so completely different because they are the first generation to see what they want to see, have all information just a click away and seem generally accepting of all types of people regardless where they are from.
Much in the same way the baby boomer generation was ridiculed by their parents for spending far too much time and energy on rock and roll, radio, and television, this new generation is on their phone. The older generations didn’t grow up with things “going viral” and that term has a negative feel to it, and they themselves find they spend far too much time on their phones and on social platforms. If it’s addicting to them, it must be more addicting to the younger generation because they simply have less experience.
But it’s just not true. It’s always been in our hands and so we adapted much quicker. The issue isn’t addiction from the younger generation, but actually from the older. 62% of Facebook users are over 35, 20% is in the Millennial Generation, and 10% is over 65. All of these generations have had social media the same amount of time. And the numbers are actually pretty similar. The only exception being television. Millennials don’t watch TV they stream off their tablets, phones, and computers. Gen X and the Boomers still watch a few hours of TV every night.
Somehow the TV screen is lost in translation when compared to the cell phone screen.
The Millennials are the first generation to make inclusivity a priority, renewable energy a reality, and social media a tool. These initiatives were largely thought of by a previous generation that wanted to make things better for the next generation, but has now become irate and jealous that it is becoming a possibility. Fabricating things to complain about the next generation is a silly way to show support. But maybe a few of us will use that chip on our shoulder to break the rules all over again.
But how about instead of ridicule there is general support? What if we all worked together instead of drawing a line in the sand of who is right and who is wrong?
The Millennials themselves will be the first to try and weasel out of being part of their own generation. Where does that come from? Handed down from the previous generation trying to prove that their worth is still a worth. If you were born between 1981 and 1996 and you are saying that you are not a millennial you are only being beholden to the previous generations who paved the way and now have shackled you to a slower rate of growth, to their fears, and to their shadows disappearing as the sun sets. You’re buying into 400 years of historically repetitious inaccuracies fueled by tradition instead of truth.
Time to unshackle.
2018 marks the first year we could have a Millennial as president. Young leaders are being elected already. Justin Trudeau of Canada is 46 and Emanuel Macron is 40. The Millennial Generation is now larger than the Baby Boomers and that number will continue to grow larger as the years go by. We are in control. Not monetarily, but in populous and that means that we can start to dictate the direction of this great nation.
If you are already using phrases like “the kids these days” and “back in the day” you are already cementing into place the same repression and historical inaccuracies that previous generations put in place. But it’s not supportive and won’t help us all out long term. The younger generations should use their time and effort to connect with the older generation, to learn where certain things went wrong, and where things went right and accept that wisdom and learn. If everyone was willing to work together we could all be part in making the future of this great nation much brighter.
As long as everyone puts their phones down long enough to listen.