The ME ME ME Generation; Why they’ll save us all
TIME Magazine recently ran a cover story about the Millennial generation. In his article Joel Stein frames the Millennial generation as bloggers, hackers, terrorists and app-makers taking on entire industries. The title frames us as “lazy, entitled, narcissists who still live with their parents,” and elaborates with facts and testimonials about our narcissism:
“They’re already so comfortable in front of the camera that the average American 1-year-old has more images of himself than a 17th century French king.”
At first glance this article is in line with all of the misconceptions that our research has found among older generations looking in at the GenY cohort in Canada. Our December 2011 survey asked how non-millennial Canadians, 30 and over, would describe the Millennial generation, or those born between 1980 and 2000.
Stein highlights that, “what Millennials are most famous for besides narcissism is its effect: entitlement.” Our survey of 1,000 Canadian adults found that people who fall into our parents and grandparents age groups typically had a negative impression of the Millennials. They primarily framed us as materialistic, coddled, lazy and spoiled. The word cloud below presents findings from the open-ended question included on this survey.
“What Millennials are most famous for besides narcissism is its effect: entitlement.”
While they point out all of the negatives, non-Millennial Canadians are right about a few other things: Millennials are confident, tech-savvy and certainly connected. We were raised believing that we are important, special, and even gifted people who can achieve anything. Moreover, our natural comfort with technology and a digital world means we can easily weed out inauthentic claims, connect with friends and acquaintances around the world, and work from home. When motivated we can be more productive, innovative, and industrious than those before us.
As a generation, we work hard when motivated and encouraged but we also value flexibility, free time, teamwork, consensus, and the ability to enjoy the fruits of our labour. Like other generations, most of us want to make a good living and own our own home someday. We are not any more materialistic than generations that came before us.
With this in mind, the article moved on to acknowledge that while non-millennials may be skeptical, the truth is that Millennials don’t need older generations to get by, and that’s why we’re scared of them.
“Millennials don’t need us. That’s why we’re scared of them.”
Stein explains the unique world that North American Millennials are growing up in. He highlights our connectivity and empowerment as individuals in the information revolution. Millennials have been handed the technology to compete against huge organizations.
In the M-Factor, generational researchers Lancaster and Stillman explain that “while Xers saw independence as strength, millennials see collaboration as power” (2010). Our access to immediate and international publishing has enabled this generation to go beyond simply freedom of speech but a new configuration of customized media and news and more easily enable freedom of assembly. Now, thanks to social media and networking, groups are mobilizing through collective interests and have shown that together they can make a big impact.
“While Xers saw independence as strength, millennials see collaboration as power.”
Our research has tracked the power of Millennials to connect and organize. While the technology that we’ve been handed does contribute to our power when it comes to getting things done, Millennial leaders have also taken the reigns when it comes to creating technologies that give us our unique edge.
In some ways the author gets it, he stipulates that we are a leader-less generation.
“Their world is so flat that they have no leaders, which is why revolutions from Occupy Wall Street to Tahrir Square have seen even less chance than previous rebellions.”
But the important element here is not that we are leader-less, but that we all have the chance to contribute and work together as a group to get greater things accomplished than we could do on our own.
In the end Stein condones our narcissism and connectivity accepting that one thing psychologists can agree on is that, “millennials are nice.”
He may rip us apart for our “mirror, mirror on the wall” attitudes and shameless self-promotion online, in a world where we all strive to become a ‘microcelebrity.”
But with this in mind, there is one key factor that Stein has left out in all of this. He neglects to include any real acknowledgement of the job market in which we’re operating in as we graduate. At a much higher unemployment rate, it is not surprise that Millennials in Canada and the US have high hopes, are boldly self-promoting and are still living with their parents.
Older generations may be scared of us, but we have real fear; unemployment, or worse, underemployment. We self-promote and develop our own technologies to connect with our peers to get things done and to connect with CEOs of large corporations to complain to submit a resume. But we’d be foolish not to use all of the human and technology resources that we have access to as we leave school and move into a barren job market.
We know that Millennials think differently, communicate differently and have different life expectations than any other generation. Growing up with the Millennial generation we understand these differences first hand and as more and more of us enter the workforce, take on leadership roles in business and government and become a powerful force in the consumer market, the generational divisions highlighted by TIME may bring greater conflict even in Canada.
It is our goal as researchers to understand these differences and to try and predict their effects. Our research not only seeks to understand millennial attitudes, but also strives to uncover impressions and misconceptions of our generation.
For more information about the Millennial generation check out the research available on our website, the Abacus Data Canadian Millennial Practice.