22k likes, 6.3k comments, 90k shares and a whopping 6.6 million views on Facebook alone. I’m pretty sure you’ve seen it. The Sponsor a Millennial Video.
It’s funny. I laughed. I mean, “annual pilgrimage to Bethel”? Come on, this video is hilarious.
This video is popular because it feeds off the stereotype of the generation that currently has the biggest population in the world. The stereotype of the Millennial Generation is obvious. We are entitled, lazy and self-centered.
I took a quick scroll through the comments on the video and was intrigued by the conversation that unfolded. Let me save you the grammatical hell a.k.a. the Internet Discussion, and give you a general overview. There were two parties. One said: “This is so true, this generation is *****, beep beep, ***, etc.” or “I’m so offended, this is not true. I am a millennial and I… [insert story about how hard they work, how hard their life is, blah blah blah].”
I personally know very few Millennials that are lazy, entitled and narcissistic. It definitely doesn’t resonate with my own life. Even if there is a sense of entitlement in certain groups, it fades off quickly when they get normal jobs and adult responsibilities. In my experience, the Lazy Millennial is an exception more than a rule. So where does this reputation come from? Are we missing our generations biggest blind spot, or are we just being ridiculed by older generations that misinterpret us?
Let’s leave the jokes and stereotypes alone and look at some statistics. In May 2013, Times Magazine published a cover story where they wrote:
The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that’s now 65 or older, according to the National Institutes of Health; 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982. Millennials got so many participation trophies growing up that a recent study showed that 40% believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance. They are fame-obsessed: three times as many middle school girls want to grow up to be a personal assistant to a famous person as want to be a Senator, according to a 2007 survey; four times as many would pick the assistant job over CEO of a major corporation. They’re so convinced of their own greatness that the National Study of Youth and Religion found the guiding morality of 60% of millennials in any situation is that they’ll just be able to feel what’s right. Their development is stunted: more people ages 18 to 29 live with their parents than with a spouse, according to the 2012 Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults. And they are lazy. In 1992, the nonprofit Families and Work Institute reported that 80% of people under 23 wanted to one day have a job with greater responsibility; 10 years later, only 60% did.
Yikes. Even though this whole article is negatively colored; the data doesn’t lie. On the other hand, numbers are just numbers until someone interprets them. And why is that interpretation always stamped with a big Thumbs Down?
These numbers have been interpreted by saying we are lazy, aren’t willing to have a job without frequent promotions. Apparently, our arrogant mindset has shaped us into something that has a scary resemblance to a cactus: prickly, slow to grow up, not going anywhere and and only pretty because it’s currently trending on Instagram.
Another way to look at it is that this generation has learned to think for themselves, or even better – think outside of the box. Generations before the Millennial have been taught that you need to work hard. The Millennial believes in working smart, and strategizing for your 15-year plan before you do anything.
The Millennial had the luxury to take the time to ask big questions. Why? Why are we doing what we’re doing? Why is that important? Why is that true? Why do I want that? Why is that required of me?
Millennials no longer do something because they were told to. Their commitment to big institutions or political affiliation has been declining for years. But Millennials also don’t rebel against authority. Even under teenagers, the rate of rebellion is at an all-time low. They don’t go with the mainstream, neither do they rebel against it. They simply don’t really care.
And that creates space. When you don’t have to follow a set of rules or fulfill the demands of a pre-determined culture, and you also don’t have to spend your energy fighting against it, you have time to spare. And this allows the Millennial to think, dream and reassess.
Who says it’s a failure to live with your parents for a few more years? Isn’t it a great opportunity to build an adult-to-adult relationship with them? Why throw away money to a landlord instead of saving money to start your own business, have a down-payment for a house or start paying off those crazy student loans? Who says all these ‘lazy Millennials’ aren’t just getting ready to hit the ground running?
Who says you have to stick with the same job, or even the same career, for 20 years? Who says the only options are a Master of One or Mediocre at Many? Maybe society is changing in such a way that a broad skill set is actually needed?
Who says you have to marry when you’re 20.6 years old? Is single life not an opportunity to develop yourself and build a healthy foundation for a long-term relationship?
Who says the world is only getting worse? Who says this is as good as it’s gonna get? Who says we can’t make a difference? Why can’t we at least give it a try?
The Millennial has something to bring to society that none of the other generations carry. We have an unique view on the world that inspires unconventional solutions.
I’m not saying the Millennial doesn’t have weaknesses or problems. We do have commitment issues, a wealth-focused entitlement and a passive activism that’s deems a Facebook status enough effort to fight major social issues. I’ll be the first to admit, the Millennial is far from perfect.
But that’s why we get to lean on the strength of the older generations. We can learn from our parents and grand-parents and glean from their wisdom. In fact, that’s something the Millennial does really well. Research shows they invite the advice and council of their parents or mentors on a regular basis. Again, this has been portrayed as lazy and dependent by the media, but I see this as a strength. We no longer have to prove to the world that we can do it all by ourselves, because we can’t. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel and we don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the ones who went before us.
I am excited to see the conversation change. I’m looking forward to the moment we’re shifting from seeking whom to blame and trying to fix a ‘broken generation’, to recognizing the keys and new perspectives that the Millennial brings.
We have a responsibility to change this conversation. We can acknowledge that we need Generation Silent through X to help us in our blind spots and weaknesses, while still staying true to the unique voice we’ve developed.
I think we will turn out more than okay.
We might actually be the generation that sets our children’s children up for success.