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September 28, 2017

The Top 3 Dirty Little Secrets of Millennials

By Mitzi Salgado


What else are “Baby Boomers” going to say, Millennials are irresponsible, self-centered, egocentric, don’t have a strong set of values, you name it. But after listening to an hour-long panel with 5 Ph.D. scholars saying all of these things at one of the top-ranked universities in California, I had to finally write about these stereotypes.

How can highly educated people giving panels about Millennials say these biased, and quite frankly, ignorant statements? Take a look at some of the facts that tend to be overlooked when speaking about millennials.

Allow me to state the elephant in the room, or the three BIG “secrets” of Millennials, or so it seems:

  1.  Millennials are a HUGE diverse group of people. Millennials range between the ages of 18-34 and that age standard was assigned to the millennial category several years ago, so it’s actually more like 16-36 (with a margin of error of a few years). How can one person say that the 34-36-year-olds are behaving like the 16-18-year-olds? Or, worse yet, how are the 34-year-olds anywhere close in behavior and interest as the 18-year-olds! There is a huge gap in between these age groups and adult teenagers are certainly not worried about buying a house, paying off student debt, or having children (for the general 34-year-old population) like how 34-year-olds would be worrying about. On the same token, nor are most of the 34-year-old folks worried about choosing a major, graduating college, or even high school, getting their driver’s license, etc… It is worth to note that there are 34-year-olds and 18-year-olds in either of those situations, but proportionally, it is safe to say that the interests and pressing concerns of a 34-year-old aren’t the same ones that an 18-year-old has.
  2. Millennials are also the most diverse generation. One of the biggest elephants in the room is the fact that the Millennial generation in the United States is actually more diverse than the baby boomer generation. Meaning that there are lots of black Millennials, Latino and Latina millennials, Asian American, upper-middle-class millennials, upper-class millennials, lower-class millennials, millennials below the poverty line, on the poverty line, and above the poverty line. Like good old Joey said from friends, millennials whose poverty line is “a dot to them,” are also very different from those whose poverty line looks like the great wall of china. The best part of this diversity is that thanks to technology, social media, and the internet, they are all VISIBLE! Awesome, isn’t it? Why does this matter? Millennials who live in poverty aren’t concerned with posting a “selfie” every day, minority millennials are more likely to be concerned about socio-economic issues, and the idea that they are just self-centered, ignores that fact that they may never be taking a selfie, that they may not be “wasting time” on social media, that they may well indeed working every day, grass-rooting in their community, or simply focusing on their studies. Understanding that millennials come from an array of backgrounds discredits all of these stereotypes that are used against millennials in the first place.
  3.   Values come in all shapes and sizes, thus not all values have to be religious, and Millennials know that.  Many of these “Millennial Critiques” are disengaged with the every day Millennials. It is quite evident that in order for a person to speak false trivia about an entire population is disengaged with such population Those disengaged with issues millennials usually take on is only looking from the outside-in through a very specific personal lens. After doing a documentary about Millennial women of color, Party Girls: Exploring Politics Across America, I learned that the general (older population, especially) never really tuned in to the conversations that millennials were having with each other.  Though it is equally important for Millennials to engage in conversations with non-millennials but having said that, it is imperative that non-millennials engage in a constructive conversation where the exchange of ideas and good listening skills are practiced. Nonetheless, it’s more than clear that millennials do express their political views in powerful communication platforms, yet somehow the message to the older generations isn’t delivered. Why? Because if for example, if a millennial in favor of gay rights, discusses the importance of gay rights from their point of view (or value system, or for whatever reason they see fit) the perception comes across as, “millennials have no values.” What a leap! This leap is not only irrational but very biased.  Many may argue that having values has nothing to do with gay rights, or may solely be addressing a fundamental human value, but where did the miscommunication occur, and how did this topic somehow become a “lack of?”

These illogical jumps and assumptions made about Millennials are deeply problematic. There is more to be said about the stereotypes used against millennials, but understanding these issues and understanding the complexity of a population does not only says a lot about a specific age group, but it is representative of understanding large populations as a whole. Allow us to avoid making stereotypes about the entire complex group before tuning into their everyday stories and experiences. It is amazing how dramatically misinformation can be corrected with active listening and engaging in some diverse conversation.

By Mitzi Salgado