I wanted to write to you all today because as of late I feel the media hasn’t been painting us in the most flattering light and there were a few things I wanted to clear up. The term Millennial is used far too often as a collective idea that doesn’t bear in mind that there is no such thing as this binary between those who are Millennials and those who aren’t. The reality is that, despite many of us fitting some of the features on the checklist, each of us is entirely different and unique. Technology continues to evolve and there are popular trends that go around, that one we won’t deny, but there is so much more to us than our internet use or the music we like.
First of all, social media.
Yes, Millennials like to share and to keep in touch, but this is no different in essence to the letter writing of the 1800’s. There are dangers to be aware of and education on all things internet is important, but the majority of us use these spaces as positive outlets. We share our artwork or something good that happened to us that day, puppy memes that made us smile and news that caught our attention. It’s constantly being targeted by advertising companies who have recognized the value in this but that doesn’t really stand in the way of the fact that online, we are the same people we are offline. All toxicity comes largely from the external.
When we enter into these environments, it is to connect and not to reject. The negative elements of it, such as the perpetuating of one version of beautiful and the exclusivity of ads, don’t come from us but are instead interwoven into cyberspace by outside factors. The sharing done by Millennials has actually led to a surge in positive elements such as the increase in charitable donations and awareness of everything from the week in politics to climate change.
In terms of studies, Millennials are under the highest pressure and this is reflected by societal changes.
Mental health issues amongst university students are considered a social epidemic, ever on the increase as study pressures mount higher. Though there are more opportunities in ways for young people, it is also becoming harder to get involved in them due to the demands set in place. For instance, to enter into Oxbridge for undergraduate level, sometimes even straight A’s aren’t enough. And employment? There are so many of us now compared to the number of available jobs that getting into our chosen career paths can sometimes seem near impossible.
Additionally, because young people allegedly aren’t seen outside as much anymore or because they’re always seemingly on their laptops when they are, a frequent quip from older generations has been ‘Millennials are so lazy, they’re never working and are always online’. The irony in this is that being online is how you complete work now! Assignments, whether we like it or not, are largely only accessible on virtual learning platforms. The average Millennial checks their email every 6 minutes, meaning that work and stress follows us into our homes long after office hours are over.
Some other common ‘observations’ are that Millennials are all narcissistic, self-obsessed individuals who are obsessed with money making and never grow up.
Whilst selfies are certainly a picture of our own faces, often the only form of self-obsession is linked with the high pressure placed by the perfect worlds promoted by online marketing and the pressures of our studies. The reality is that ultimately every Millennial is driven by the desire to improve themselves and be the best person that they can be, regardless of how much money they can earn. When it comes down to it, Millennials count being happy as their biggest success, opposed to having a bank account bursting at the seams (though I think nobody would complain about that!).
As for the never growing up?
This is a misconception that involves those making the claim. Millennials face the biggest collection of crises ever to exist, caused in part by the previous generations accusing us of not being adult enough to be doing what they were at our age. Because of the decisions that were made during our childhood, there is a housing crisis that means many of us can’t move out or leave home properly if we want to save up to buy our own homes. The average move-out age is now mid 30’s where it was 16 – 18 in the 1970’s. On top of this, by the age of 21 most of us who have been to university are well over £50,000 in debt plus interest!
These are things we are fighting to change and Millennials are defined in my mind as a person from this ‘category’, as highly individually motivated people. We want to grow up and brush off the Peter Pan generation idea but it’s difficult to do so when there are so many obstacles in our path.
So what can we draw from all of this about who Millennials actually are?
We are the most inclusive generation to date and we want to make a change that will improve the world. During our lives so far, same-sex marriage has been legalized in over 26 countries, mental health is no longer a taboo topic and is talked about more and more, young people have protested to protect women’s rights and the eighth amendment was repealed in Ireland legalizing abortion, and over 75% of the Millennial population voted regarding the 2016 Brexit Referendum. All of this, along with so many other campaigns on how to decrease the damage we do to our environment and how we can make our cities safer spaces, is purely down to the efforts of determined, creative, thoughtful, amazing Millennials.
There are so many young people in the world today and so it’s important they be respected and given the chance to at least attempt some things. At the moment there are 1.1billion people between the ages of 15 – 24 growing up, thinking about the future and making the changes that will lead to our planet being a better place. And so I want to say that from all of this, it is evident to me that Millennials don’t deserve to be reduced to just a shade of pink or a few ill-educated comments. We are not a faceless category but instead one made up of many voices, all of which will be heard with time.
We are the future we wish to form and everyone wants change, though it is never easy. All journeys have to start somewhere and ours starts here. I can’t wait to see what we will achieve.