In Search of Millennials

This post is another article about Millennials. Like Time Magazine‘s May feature, “The Me, Me, Me Generation” and countless other cover stories, it’s full of assertions and a few accusations. Unlike Time however, my accusations are directed at us older folk. Simply put, we don’t have a clue about the Millennial Generation and it’s liable to cost us. In her book, Generation Me, Jean M. Twenge, PhD, quotes an advertising executive looking back at the way Gen Xers were regarded as bored cynics (immortalized by Ethan Hawke in Reality Bites), calling it the “most expensive marketing mistake in history”. Overstatement but we get the point: Don’t believe the pop psychology and the cover-story jeremiads about Millennials because the findings are all over the place. One will say Millennials travel more, spend more and complain more, while another will tell you they are browsers not spenders. Some of the books that purport to do a deeper dive on the subject than the magazines, are even more heavy handed and their titles give them away: The Dumbest Generation; Not Everyone Gets a Trophy; The Culture of Narcissism; and The Narcissism Epidemic. So, in looking at this generation of 80 million born between 1980 and 2002, where exactly do we go for insight?

Who can blame young people from heading for cover when the adults in charge of our government and institutions insist on juvenile posturing, easy either/or formulations and intransigency? Maybe the lesson for us–the generation that brought you the government shutdown and the Cable TV rant–is not to be so quick to judge and to give this next generation the benefit of the doubt. Let’s start by taking the sting and negative valence out of the word Millennials.

This blog originally appeared in the Huffington Post on October 24, 2013.  To view the full blog, click here.