The Millennial Obsession: Thoughts from a Baby Boomer

October 28th, 2017

“Millennials” seem to be much in the news these days – and they don’t seem to be getting very good press.

According to media reports (including social media), Millennials are self-absorbed, “entitled,” obsessed with money and material things, and they complain a lot. I am the mother of a Millennial, born in the 1980s. Millennials are asserting themselves, as well they should.

I found some fascinating infographics on Millennials, Baby Boomers and the like. This is a U.S. take but quite nicely done.

I found some fascinating infographics on Millennials, Baby Boomers and the like. This is a U.S. take but quite nicely done.

I have been quite confused by all these generational terms though, so I decided to get it straight in my head. I do know, for sure, that I am a Baby Boomer (BB). And this is what I have also learned, having picked the brains of Google:

Millennials were born between 1982 – 2002. I think they are also called Generation Y.  If you go by this yardstick, currently the oldest Millennials are 35 years old and the youngest… fifteen. Right? So, they are the generation that is going to college or in their first or second job (hopefully). I am not sure, but I am guessing that this all came from marketing; Millennials are a key target demographic for people to sell stuff to. Like social scientists with their technical terms, marketers like to divide people up into neat categories – they are so much easier to deal with that way.

There are some other generations that have not quite come into their own. There is the so-called iGen (aged five to 22 right now) – or Generation Z. I have read in several articles that they are less heavy going than the Millennials. They are more withdrawn and more technology-oriented though, which is perhaps not so desirable. Or perhaps they are just making way for AI (Artificial Intelligence) to take over.

Then there is Generation X (1965 to 1979) – apparently fewer in numbers than BBs, at least in “the West.”  They seem to be doing OK.

Here's a rather complicated marketing-type infographic comparing Millennials and Baby Boomers.

Here’s a rather complicated marketing-type infographic comparing Millennials and Baby Boomers.

However, there is one fly in the ointment. I get the feeling that we BBs are getting some blame for the Millennials’ alleged “bad attitude” (I say “alleged” because I am not at all convinced by the broad-brush description of them, above). We brought them up to feel they were extra special. We indulged them; we taught them a lot about self esteem, over-compensating for the fact that it wasn’t a concept that was ever used throughout our own childhoods. But then, when the Millennials grew up, they found that the world they had inherited from us incompetent BB’s wasn’t so great after all. Not enough jobs; not enough well paid jobs; and it costs a small fortune to go to college. Besides, we have climate change. In some online discussions (or rather, inter-generational arguments) I sense an undercurrent of resentment: How could you do this to us? We have such great self-esteem. We are great, actually. We deserve better!

But this is all generalising, something I am not fond of doing. At least, I think, I have got a handle on these terms, now. There may be certain traits that generations have in common, of course: more or less conservative (I am puzzled that many Millennials seem to care little for the liberal ideals that I embraced at their age, and still pathetically cling to); more or less socially conscious, and so on. These characteristics often derive from their environment and the society they grew up in (and yes, Millennials, you’re grown-ups now)…

Last, but not least, there is Gen Alpha. Well, they are the least at the moment; they are quite small. We have a number of Gen Alpha grandchildren. Will they have jobs and college places, when they grow up? Or will they just have robots?

That is, if they have any kind of world left to inherit. One thing, as a BB, I have to concede: We really did a bad job at protecting our Planet.

P.S. Millennials, please don’t take any of this too seriously. Oh…but then, you probably will. 

Watch out folks... Gen Alpha is on its way!

Watch out folks… Gen Alpha is on its way!



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