Blogs » Man Bites Dog » What's the big deal about Millennials, anyway?

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For the past two weeks, I’ve been researching and talking to Victorians about Millennials and the generational clash these 20-somethings are caught in.

Some optimistically say Millennials have more tools than any other generation to create, experience and impact the world. Others say they’re too wrapped up in Facebook to even notice the opportunity. You can read the story in Friday’s newspaper, but take this post as a prologue.

This clash -- that one generation is the laziest ever, is ungrateful, spoiled and unfit for life -- is fairly predictable and pretty much on time with what we’ve seen in the past. I’m not offended, it takes a lot more than some name-calling to ruffle my feathers.

Think about other generations. The “hippies” who embodied love: love-ins, Summer of Love, all you need is love. Or beatniks who like, their music, lived in a spontaneous culture of jazz and ecstasy. Then there were the punks of the 1970’s and their black-leather-rage, and 10 years later, the slackers' sense of aimlessness and angst. Each one had their own group of people who hated them. And you know what, I guess it’s our turn.

When I think about my generation, I have a hard time coming up with descriptions. Overall, we have strong convictions of rejecting close-mindedness and stereotypes, but I suppose that description is a stereotype in itself.

On one hand, I think of imagination and adventure. I see self-deprecating people, enlightened with education and humbled by job shortages and debt. I see them making something out of nothing by channeling a year of job rejections into a spirit of volunteerism. On the other, I see frustrated crowds, willing to be pepper-sprayed for their beliefs of fairness and equality. And then, an apathetic group too desensitized with News Feeds and overstimulated with Status Updates to care either way.

The main concern I hear over and over is Millennials’ delay in responsibility -- the period now labeled as “emerging adulthood.”

It’s obvious Millennials are on a different timetable as their predecessors. For decades, there have been set achievements on the life roadmap: finish school, leave home, become financially independent, get married and have children. While most Millennials are using the same map, the timetable has changed. That may be worrisome to communities looking for young people to fill in the gaps and provide a new perspective; however, I see the change in pace as healthy in the long run. They have learned from previous generations and are not settling in their relationships or careers. Even so (and rejecting the stereotype), Victoria’s Millennials are trying to step up and show interest in the city and local government -- see Gilbert Servin, the 18-year-old University of Houston-Victoria student set on changing the city charter so 18-year-olds can run for office.

I have high hopes for this generation. If you don’t, I encourage you to talk to your children and grandchildren, talk to your nieces and nephews, your neighbors and your checker at the grocery store. Share your stories, your concerns and your hopes. Let’s talk and I think we’ll find that what we want in life isn't that different after all.