5 Things the Media Has Wrong About Millennials (As Told by a Millennial)
There’s been a lot of talk about millennials lately. We’ve all read article after article about lazy, entitled millennials who can’t manage their money and have the world’s shortest attention spans. We’ve also heard the other side of the debate, touting millennials as one of the most educated and understanding generations.
But of everything we’ve seen, there seems to be a common theme of lumping the largest generation of individuals (over 92 million people, spanning over 20 years) under one large umbrella term, and that just doesn’t quite fit. The media may never stop the stereotypes, but if you’re marketing to millennials, you’d better make sure you get these five things straight.
1. Millennials can manage their money; we just don’t have much to manage.
The most educated generation faces over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt across the United States, due to the drastic 40 percent increase in tuition over the past ten years (Boone, 2014). Add that to the long list of other factors, including high unemployment and low wages, and you’ve got a recipe for a generation forced to endure crippling debt within the early years of their careers.
2. Sure, our eyes are glued to our phones, but we’re closer to each other than ever.
Growing up in a technology-driven world has more than shaped the Millennial generation. Technology is becoming an extension of the self, and is expanding our communicative reach. So while we may be more absorbed with technology, it’s because we’re busy messaging one another, checking up on old friends and even dating, all within the confines of a tiny smartphone. We aren’t limited to the people within our neighborhood or even our city; we are free to communicate globally at any given time, and we do.
3. But we aren’t all technology all the time; we’re interested in maintaining a sort of nostalgia.
Millennials are increasingly interested in reminiscing about the past. Technology has evolved so quickly that we’re all honestly a bit disillusioned by the whole thing. To combat it, we look to things like vinyl records, hardback first editions of our favorite books instead of tablets, and anything vintage. Social movements such as Throwback Thursday, articles like “10 Things Only 90s Kids Remember,” and Lisa Frank merchandise at Urban Outfitters all hearken to a not-so-long-ago era we seem to idealize.
4. We’re apathetic about our world, but empathetic toward one another.
Distrust in the government is another relatively common Millennial trait we’re not going to deny, and the increase in the Independent party over the past few years is proof. We’re upset about the world around us, but particularly when it has to do with our fellow humans. Ask any member of our generation and you’ll probably find we have an opinion about the lack of clean water in Sub-Saharan Africa, the need for shoes in Haiti, and what you can do to help out in Nepal. We’re also advocates of issues closer to home, like marriage equality, equal pay and the body positivity movement.
5. Our attention spans may be a little short, but only because we’re ready to make things happen.
We really should be called the NOW generation, but not because we expect things to magically change overnight. We’re just accustomed to things happening quickly: food delivery is fast, ordering online is easier than going to the store, and we can learn anything we want just by Googling it. So when we make up our minds to do something, we start immediately. We put in the effort to get results fast, and work even harder to make a difference. We just want to contribute positively, and make a change in our world.
Obviously, the media needs a bit of fact-checking assistance. We manage the little money we have just fine, and are obsessed with our phones only because they’re a link to one another. And yeah, our attention spans are short and we prefer to watch six-second videos over two minute ones, but only because we need any spare time to research the world around us and make an impact.
So the next time you think of marketing to millennials, heed this advice from a strong-willed, hardheaded one: Nothing will make a Millennial more upset than making broad assumptions about our generation, because the rumors about us being rebelliously independent are more than true.
Blog Author: Amanda Deering, Former B teamer