By: Arash Yaghma
Young adults of the 2nd millennium (since year 2000) of the Gregorian calendar, are sometimes referred to, in the US and Canada, as “Millennials.” The word, in this definition (also “generation Y”), was created as a part of a series of other terms such as “Baby Boomers”, “Generation X” and “Generation Z” by American sociologists in an attempt to describe the traits of generations born during or after WW2, by relating them to the after-effects of the global war.
The first sociological use of the term “Millennials” is famously credited to William Strauss and Neil Howe.
Strauss, a historian, playwright and lecturer and Howe, also a historian, economist and demographer, together coined the term in a book that was published in 2000 titled Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation.
Other terms that are suggested and sometimes used for this age group include “Generation Y”, “Generation We”, “Global Generation”, “Generation Next”, the “Net Generation” and also “Echo Boomers”.
The lines between
There are numerous and varied opinions about the exact range of the birth year for Millennials. Strauss and Howe used 1982 as the start of the birth years and 2004 for the end of them. Other suggestions for this range from sociologists such as Elwood Carlson, include 1983-2001, 1980–1994, 1982–2000, etc.
But the uncertainty do not end with just the birth years. There are a lot of different – and sometimes contradicting – opinions about the traits of Millennials. Strauss and Howe in their 1991 book “Generations: The History of America’s Future” characterize Millennials as “possessed of rational minds, a positive attitude, and selfless team virtue”.
In Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation the authors mention some other positive traits for Millennials. They describe them as: optimistic, cooperative team players, rule followers, and racially and ethnically diverse.
However, A 2014 Pew Research study in United States took a look at the mildly negative side of the case. According to the research, members of this age group are:
- relatively unattached to organized politics and religion,
- linked by social media,
- burdened by debt,
- distrustful of people,
- in no rush to marry
but “optimistic about the future”.
People believe what they want to believe
The sting of the so-called “generation gap” is a global phenomenon that is repeated throughout the history of mankind. Parents and children are always in a war trying to comprehend the chasm of difference between their values and opinions — a battle that rarely reaches a positive conclusion and mutual understanding in children’s late adulthood.
This generational war, often motivates both sides to seek favorable opinions from all possible sources and use them as weapons to prove their righteousness or mere sedatives. This situation is the major determiner of the level of popularity among sociological theories and studies on traits of generations.
Here is an example of one of the most popular descriptions of Millennials. As you can see, the television personality “Dr. Phil” is repeating something that parents of all generations have said about their children; that they are self-entitled and so on…
One of the sociologists that gained popularity and media attention because of such opinions is Dr. Jean M. Twenge. In her book titled “Generation Me” published in 2014, she criticizes Strauss and Howe’s opinions and mentions that Millennials are “entitled”, “narcissistic”, “arrogant” and “the most miserable” young adult “than ever before”.
Considering the situation that is described above, the book obviously gained media attention and fame quickly. Although, criticism followed its release almost at the same pace.
Some Critics blamed her for cherry-picking the data and biased interpretation ; some others proved that the method of study that she and her colleagues used called “cross-temporal meta-analytic” (made famous by this book) is unreliable and inaccurate.
The modern world has brought Internet, online and offline gaming and social media as replacements for drugs, rock music and sexual promiscuity that were responsible for generational gaps in the 80s and 90s. It doesn’t seem to this writer that the chasm between the opinions and ideas of two generations have become wider or deeper, it is simply the means of creating those differences that are changed.
Toddlers and teenagers of 10-20 years ago are now young adults who are altering the face of the world of the present and future as we speak. It seems to be the right time to do what every other generations in the history have eventually done:
Look past the typical hostilities each generation has for the next, and help this energetic generation of Millennials shape the future.