The word “Millennial” has never been more contentious. Many people who fall into the generation don’t identify as a Millennial, and older generations sneer at the term.
This apprehension is not consistent across generations. In fact, generational identity was strongest among Baby Boomers, with 79% of who fall squarely in the age range considering themselves part of the “Baby-Boom generation.”
But why is there such distaste for the word? And what about those who do identify with being a Millennial?
For one, it’s a solid starting point.
“A generational name helps to start a conversation,” said Jason Dorsey, Co-Founder and lead researcher of at Center for Generational Kinetics, in conversation with BBC. “Otherwise, we might be saying ‘twentysomething’ and ‘thirtysomething,’ which is not actually generation-specific but a demographic. When we say ‘Baby Boomers,’ we don’t just think of people in their 60s and 70s, but people who also grew up in the 1960s and saw specific defining events shape their worldview.”
It is exactly these defining events that help shape the Millennial generation as well. For Millennials, it was remembering where they were when they heard about 9/11 or the Great Recession taking its toll on the country and the American psyche.
“I do think ‘Millennial’ too often is used as a negative term or even a slight, but that is because the generation has often been presented in a negative light,” added Dorsey. “I think giving them a different name doesn’t change the negativity. Showing that Millennials can be self-reliant, productive, and inspiring does.”
For every negative that comes out about Millennials, there are two more positive and exciting aspects as well. After all, they are the best-educated generation, more tolerant than previous generations, and are curious and worldly. They also love reading, are discerning consumers, and are close with their parents.
What’s in a name when it comes to Gen Z, the generation after Millennials? We do know that they are a more non-traditional generation in many ways. For one, they avoid traditional gender norms, and many of them balk at taking out enormous student loans like their Millennial predecessors. It will be interesting to see how they grow into their generational identity as they start graduating from college and entering the workforce.
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