Last Updated on March 18, 2021 by Filip Poutintsev
Millennials are, without a doubt, an exceptional generation, with different worldview than the older generations. That explains the common tag that older people use to describe the millennials – selfish, entitled, lazy, and shallow. There is every reason to believe that this is a generation that focuses on itself. But before we can even delve deeper into them, let’s start by agreeing on one thing – who exactly are the millennials?
Who are the millennials?
It would be unfair to take a jab at the millennials without actually drawing a line highlighting who exactly they are. Generation Y also comes right after Generation X and precedes Generation Z. The birth period for this generation starts in the early 1980s. It goes all the way to the early 2000s as the end birth year for millennials. The most widely accepted birth period for the millennials falls between 1981 and 1996. Most millennials are the children of baby boomers and Gen Xers.
Worldwide, millennials were born when the fertility rate declined, which explains why they have fewer children than their predecessors. However, those in developing nations are found to continue making up the largest part of the population.
In developed countries, millennials are less likely to engage in sexual intercourse compared to their predecessors at the same age. Further research proves that they are less likely to engage in religious activities than their predecessors but will still maintain certain spirituality aspects.
Unique features of the millennials
One key feature about this generation is its high usage and mastery of technology, including the Internet, social media, and mobile devices. It is this kind of familiarity that makes the generation be described as the digital natives.
The period between the 1990s and 2010s saw an increase in the people’s education levels from developing countries. In turn, that led to a massive increase in economic progression, helping bolster these nations’ economic growth.
There is no doubt that millennials all over the world have had more learning opportunities than their predecessors. Their cognitive abilities have equally improved, as evidenced by intelligence researcher James Flynn. In his study, Flynn reported that the gap between adults’ and children’s vocabulary levels was much smaller in the early 21st century than in the 1950s. He referenced the surge in higher education as the main contributing factor to this improvement.
Understanding the cultural aspect of the millennials goes a long way in comprehending some of their actions. The National Endowment of the Arts published a report in 2007 where it reported a decrease in the number of American adults who read for pleasure. It noted that Americans aged 15 to 24 years used an average of two hours per day watching television. A 2002 study found that only 54% of Americans aged 18 to 24 voluntarily read books, which significantly declined from 59% in 1992.
Despite the decline in reading culture for educational content, young-adult fictional materials still had a strong following. We cannot immediately conclude that the millennials are the ones who bought these books. There is a possibility that older adults may have developed an interest in purchasing younger people titles.
The millennials are equally impacting the workspace. They have redefined the meaning of working and place importance on the need to maintain relationships with seniors. Furthermore, they tend to pay attention to the tasks as opposed to time. Their free-thinking and creative nature is also something new that Generation Y brings to the workforce.
They are the most self-centered generation of all generations. Among the many charges raised against them is the common agreement that they have tendencies for narcissism. Their narcissistic behaviors give them a false sense of importance, power, and attractiveness.
Even though narcissism bolsters their self-confidence and well-being by specific standards, this generation is prone to maintaining unstable romantic relationships, making risky decisions, and impulsivity. When they detect a threat to their ego, their immediate reaction is to be aggressive.
Different research articles have been published around the trends in narcissism. A common factor among most of these publications is that they do not focus on narcissism’s personality disorder. Instead, they concentrate on personality traits within the given spectrum. All of us have narcissistic traits, except that some have more than others.
Michael Maccoby, an anthropologist, explains that we need to understand what differentiates unproductive narcissism and the productive kind that most successful leaders portray. A productive narcissist is a risk-taker ready to get the work done without jeopardizing their charming nature.
Jean Twenge published a foundational paper in 2008 where she and her colleagues reviewed more than 85 studies on over 16,000 college students. The researchers noted that between 1982 and 2006, narcissistic tendencies increased in college students by 30 percent. The study also pointed out a crucial shift in how students interpreted certain statements. For instance, students in the 90s’ often agreed with the statement, “I think I am a special person.” The opposite is true for millennials, where the statement “I know I am good because most people keep telling me so” seems to strike a chord among most of them.
Millennials and entitlement
The feeling of entitlement amongst millennials presents a significant challenge in the workforce. For instance, you may have a situation where the young employee emails the CEO directly requesting to be excluded from a project just because it is boring. The entitlement attitude is condescending to their immediate supervisors, and that explains why English teacher David McCullough released a 12-minute video titled “You Are Not Special“. The video gained up to three million views on YouTube, a clear indication it speaks many people’s hearts.
All of us can agree that entitlement is not a preserve for just the millennials. Humans are naturally meant to have selfish attitudes, forcing us to work hard to suppress. However, millennials seem to have outdone themselves in this regard.
Skills enhancement is cited as one of the significant contributors to millennials feeling entitled. According to 69% of hiring managers, millennials have different skills than the other generations lacked. As the millennials begin to view themselves as more knowledgeable than most people they know, their entitlement feeling gets boosted. They overstep traditional workplace hierarchy so that they can share their insights and expertise on an issue.
Millennials are cocky about their position in an organization and society as a whole. Repeated messages that they are the future of the company and society does little to keep them calm.
Hide behind social media
If you thought that millennials are not interacting as much as their predecessors did, you better change your opinion. Millennials are as interactive as ever, except that their approach to it is different from previous generations. They interact more on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, among others. The advent of social media allows them to create new friendships even with people who are miles apart.
If you are keenly observant, you must have noticed that millennials barely go for hours without taking out their smartphones. Even at a party, they will always seem like they are in a hurry to do something. They may look calm, but deep down, they are anxious that they have missed something. Studies show that 70% of them check their phone within an hour or fantasize about a phone vibration in the pocket. Among the questions on their mind include: “Has someone reacted to my status update?” “Has a friend replied to my direct message?” you notice that the two questions revolve around their use of social media.
Social media and the digital life of millennials are two inseparable concepts. They view social media as more than just a platform to connect their personal lives. Social media is also a way to get news and information, keeping them up to date on the latest trends. The majority of the millennials get their news from Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr. Facebook takes a sizeable chunk of the most favored social network for millennials to get information.
A survey was done to find out why millennials often checked their social media platforms. Ninety-one percent of them reported that they do so mainly to read news and see what others have posted. Also, they engaged with information in a manner that is not possible for traditional media.
A social media game that millennials have mastered can turn themselves into brands by exploring the friend and follower gimmick. They know that by creating a particular perception about their position in life, they can build up how they want society to view them. That explains why Facebook is full of posts from people inflating themselves like balloons. Their friends keep telling them about vacations, parties, new jobs, and promotions, forcing them to create a lie or two about their lives on social media.
Lack of empathy
Scores on empathy tests done amongst millennials were found to have declined sharply starting in 2000. The main factor blamed for this is the reduced face to face interaction, as witnessed in most millennials’ associations. The lack of empathy reduces their concern for others and makes them find it intellectually hard to understand other people’s points of view.
Dr. Sara Konrath of the University of Michigan study found that social isolation has not helped resolve the empathy issue among millennials. The study notes that the last 30 years have witnessed more Americans prefer to live alone and rarely participate in social groups like political parties and sports teams. Studies have shown that this kind of isolation negatively impacts an individual’s attitude towards other people.
Whereas reduced face-to-face interactions are cited as one of the causes of declining empathy in this egoistic generation, researchers still speculate other possible reasons. This is a generation that has learned to put itself first. Everything they have been doing since childhood, including school programs, TV shows, and movies, emphasizes that they are special. That is a good thing, but some researchers worry that it is too much of being good. Understanding that your wants and feelings are essential is healthy. However, it becomes toxic when it is framed that you should never come second to anyone.
Accused of being lazy
Millennials are lazy, lack loyalty, and can jump ship without a second thought. They look for constant affirmation and coddling while at the same time desire autonomy, even without putting in the hours. If these reports are accurate, the generation is headed in the wrong direction.
It is true that millennials want it all and expect the world. However, being overly confident can lead to outsizing yourself and incredible achievement.
Studies have proven that millennials are continuously becoming lazy. A 1992 nonprofit Families and Work Institute research found that 80% of those aged 23 and below preferred to have a job one day. Ten years down the leader, the figure has reduced to less than 60%.
However, it is incorrect to label all millennials as being lazy. The generation’s approach to work is no longer the same as Generation X has always known. Whereas the predecessor may have been trained to work hard and put bread on the family’s table, Generation Y emphasizes working smart. They focus on creating a healthy work-life balance, unlike previous generations.
Millennials can be accused of many things, including selfishness and being lazy, but a fact that remains undisputed is that they consider themselves the unique generation. Even when it comes to the workplace, they bring onboard creativity and new enthusiasm, and energy. Give them a chance to prove themselves, and you will be surprised.