I should start this post with a confession.
I am not a Millennial.
I am a member of another highly-stereotyped generational cohort. I’m a Gen Xer. You know us as the generation that wears flannel and is too lazy to care about anything, including personal hygiene.
I’m not sure the Gen X stereotypes ever fit me, although I have a fondness for Dr. Martens. Hey, some habits die hard, right?
I do, however, spend every day surrounded by Millennials. They are in my classrooms, and I serve as their boss, adviser and, sometimes, mentor. I also listen to others in positions similar to mine lament about all of the things they don’t understand about “this generation.”
Because of this I was drawn to a post by my friend Daniel Newman, who blogs as Millennial CEO.
Dan attempted to set the record straight about some negative stereotypes attributed to the Millennial generation in his post, Time for a Millennial to Speak For Millennials. He specifically addressed five myths about Millennials related to entitlement, self centeredness, laziness, fragility, and an inability to leave home.
Because Dan’s post resinated with me, I took it a step further and asked students (read: Millennials) in my media law and ethics class to answer the following question:
Do the media fairly (ethically) portray the Millennial generational cohort?
The class was divided almost in half (9-8) by the question, with many of those who believed the media fairly portrayed Millennials saying the stereotypes came from survey research.
Regardless of their stance, most of the students agreed with Dan that the majority of the rhetoric critical of Millennials comes from older generations.
“They believe they can speak for our generation, despite their shallow understanding of us,” one student wrote.
The student later quoted an article from The New York Times (which I see him reading almost daily. Not too Millennialish, in my opinion), noting that the article was void of interviews with actual 20-somethings.
Students pointed out that every generation has dealt with stereotypes, with a student writing that most people are pretty comfortable with grouping others, but not with being grouped themselves.
Regardless, a student pointed out that labels can’t really hurt a generation. She wrote that labels don’t do anything, people do. She also pointed out that nothing positive or productive comes from complaining about stereotypes.
“You can either prove these stereotypes wrong time and time again or you can sit around, whine about how ‘unfair’ they are and prove these statements about your character to be right,” she wrote.
Another student disagreed, writing that these stereotypes and generalizations may cause caution and timidness for older generations who would work to employ Millennials.
Students who believed Millennials are fairly portrayed listed the following as attributed to their generation: multitaskers, creative, innovative, involved, proactive, equality driven, highly educated, upbeat, positive, open to change, ethically diverse, and less prejudice than former generations.
The students were proud of these traits, and thought they overruled negative perceptions.
In talking about the commonalities of her generation, one student ended her paper with a joke: “And here I was thinking I was special… I think I will go tweet about this paper now.”
Let’s Talk Nerdy!
Do you think media ethically portray Millennials? What traits do you attribute to this generation?