Misunderstanding across generations

Trevor Drew

The term “millennial” is quite the name to bear in the Information Age. Also known as Generation Y, “millennial” refers to the generation born from 1980 to 2000.

Millennials were brought up using digital technology and mass media. We are often characterized as narcissistic, and often mocked for our participation trophies.

It’s easy to poke fun at the new demographic. Sure, we have shortcomings as a generation.

But with past generations who are far from perfect themselves, it’s hardly fair to shrug Generation Y off as a bunch of dumb kids goofing off on their phones.

Albeit, producing an absurd amount of “Harambe the gorilla” memes isn’t the most productive thing but I assure you, millennials are not as stupid as they seem and should not be viewed so pessimistically.

Millennials aren’t the first younger generation to be criticized by their seniors. In fact, the phenomenon has been observed by different psychologists, sociologists and historians.

David Finkelhor, sociologist at the University of New Hampshire, refers to this as “juvenoia,” or “exaggerated anxiety about the influence of social change on children and youth.”

Each generation has different values and a different perspective shaped by events they experienced in their lifetime.

Obviously someone born around 1946 won’t place as high a value on technology as someone who was born in the 1990s. While a millennial might find it easier to purchase something using the Apple Pay function on their iPhone, people born around 1950 might prefer to write a check because that’s what they are used to.

It’s not that older generations think millennials are terrible. It’s just that they can’t understand what it is like to grow up during our time, just like it’s hard to put ourselves in their shoes.

Just because certain qualities are attached to a generation does not mean that every member of that group is limited by it. Baby boomers, those born during 1946-64, are sometimes thought to be out of sync with technology.

While it’s true older citizens usually have a hard time navigating their devices, it doesn’t mean every baby boomer is some grandpa fumbling around with a flip phone.

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who both have achieved success through technology, are members of the baby boomer generation. Baby boomers also make up a high percentage of Facebook users and out-consume Generation Xers in the tablet market by 20 percent.

Just like other generations, millennials are not slaves to the negative traits associated with them. It’s foolish to simply judge a group of people by their worst example.

Millennials are also observed as being highly innovative, and very cooperative team members in the workplace. They should not let themselves be bogged down by criticisms and expectations of others.

Every individual is a pilgrim of their own time, a master of their own destiny trying to make the best of their time while they’re here. Like every other generation, we have our weaknesses.

But unlike other generations, we are most familiar with the technology of our time and therefore most equipped to sail on into the age of new media.