The millennials have surpassed baby boomers to become the country’s largest living generation, according to the Pew Research Center. How does that make you feel? Responses in the form of a selfie or an emoji are optional.
If you’ve never taken a selfie or used an emoji – indeed, if you stumble over the terms – you’re likely not a young-adult millennial. And you may wonder how things will pan out for society when they take charge.
That’s not us talking. We’re, ahem, slightly past millennial age, but work closely with those in the 19-35 age bracket and they knock us out. However, plenty of people in older generations are puzzled by millennials, concerned that they will turn out to be less responsible than running the world requires. Nagging oldsters fuss over millennials’ quirks. To generalize (always unfair), the rap is that they’re technology-addicted, entitled and frankly rather soft.
Psychology Today collected many of the perceived weaknesses in one paragraph: “They seek constant feedback and immediate gratification. They multitask and can’t focus. They’re sensitive to criticism and unable to work alone. They refuse to pay their dues. Don’t even mention their (limited) verbal and writing skills.”
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Each generational shift profoundly ushers in roiling changes to the culture at large that feel natural to the ones coming of age but startle older folks not paying close attention.
Already, their influence suffuses America. Offices look different because millennials have their own work style. Tattoos, beards, energy drinks, Chipotle – all millennial trends. Their priorities are different, their tastes are different. Everything about millennials is different. Except for one crucial, ironic twist: the concern this young generation sows in parents and grandparents. Looking down on the kids is something that never changes. Remember, boomers?
If you go back to the late 1960s, you'll find the establishment was whipping itself into a frenzy over what to do about hippies, real and imitational.
Of course the boomers (who also mistrusted previous generations) turned out OK. Their cohort ended the Vietnam War, pioneered equality movements, started a tech revolution. But they didn’t do everything right. They created a hellacious pension debt crisis to fund their retirements. Oh and thanks for the college tuition hikes. That’s the judgmental voice of millennials, saddled with paying for the messes left by older generations.
American millennials will face rising challenges. But they are our most educated generation in history and our most diverse, too. They’re open-minded. They’re demanding and yes, coddled. Yet they’re also flexible, caring and savvy.
The millennials , like preceding generations, will prove themselves extraordinarily capable. Our country will be in good hands. Maybe better.