Let's face it: older generations discount Millennials to a stereotypical extent. We're the generational equivalent of Meg from Family Guy: we're tolerated, but nobody really tries to hide the fact that we're the least favorite kid in the house. We've heard it all before: Millennials are [insert dropdown menu]. Look, Millennials aren't perfect. After all, we are the generation that produced Satan's personal theme song.
Sure, the anti-millennial movement was funny for a while. A little self-deprecating humor here and there is healthy, and besides, nobody wants to be that guy who gets all mopey any time he's at the receiving end of a well-intentioned joke. But just like that guy in every friend group who never seems to realize when a joke gets old, society in general has dragged this one on for a little too long. So we're here to set the record straight: the case against Millennials is #FakeNews. In this article we'll explore how the Millennial Generation got such a bad reputation in the first place, demonstrate why that reputation is unjustified, and explain why it's important for society as a whole to fix this misconception.
How Millennials Got Their Bad Rep
To hear the entire case against the Millennial Generation, look no further than Simon Sinek's "Millennials in the Workplace." In this generational blitzkrieg, Sinek hits all of the standard theories as to why Millenials are just so gosh-darn soft:
They can't accept failure because they received a trophy for coming in 13th place
They're impatient because Amazon and Netflix
They communicate through Snapchat instead of in person
Sinek is a well-respected leadership guru, author, and Columbia professor, and his video has rapidly gone viral, becoming the unofficial siren song of the case against Millennials. But here's the thing: while Sinek's intellectual vibe and eloquent rhetoric make his argument sound convincing, he doesn't offer anything new. Worse yet, his argument is completely subjective, consisting of purely anecdotal rhetoric without much in the way of empirical evidence. As a matter of fact, our intern ran some complex calculations and determined that Sinek's entire argument is supported by fewer hard facts than the average Trump tweet.
After hearing the same generic arguments against Millennials, we couldn't help but be reminded of...grandpas. You know, the guys who had to walk ten miles to school, in the snow, uphill both ways back in their day? Our theory is that every generation is criticized by their elders to some extent. We're calling it the Generational Rite of Passage. It's the reason that expressions like, "I'll tell ya... kids these days!!" have, paradoxically, become timeless. As it turns out, we weren't too far off the mark.
There's Nothing Special About Millennials (oh the sweet irony)
"The older generation of Vikings no doubt [also] complained
that the younger generation was getting soft and did plunder
and pillage with the same dedication as in years gone by."
-C. Peter Herman
To prove our point, we uncovered this scene from an old TV series called Dragnet 1967, in which two cops poke at a few teenagers for their generation's values. If you took the time to watch both videos (we're impressed), you probably noticed how similar they sound. As it turns out, much of their dialogue is nearly identical:
The two clips are incredibly similar despite the fact that they were filmed nearly 50 years apart. That's right, this episode of Dragnet was filmed in 1968, making the teenagers being criticized on behalf of their generation...wait for it...Baby Boomers. You know, the very same generation that is often most critical of Millennials. If you still aren't convinced that generational prodding isn't an unsaid tradition, just ask Socrates:
"The children now love luxury. They have bad manners,
contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders
and love chatter in place of exercise."
-Socrates, 400 B.C.
But if every prior generation endured their own Generational Rite of Passage, why does it seem like Millennials are extra disappointing?
Millennials Are the First Generation to Face the Internet
The key difference between Millennials and prior generations is simple: Millennials are the first generation to face the internet in their Generational Rite of Passage. It makes sense; the internet, after all, is the best way to make #FakeNews go viral.
So unlike Ingve the 12th century Viking, whose audience was limited to the seats around his village's bonfire, older generations today have access to planet-sized megaphones called computers. Whereas Humphrey the disgruntled Gatsby-era lamplighter might have caught the attention of the bartender at his local saloon, today's disgruntled old guys can take to Twitter. Or Youtube. Or Facebook. Probably not Instagram. Hoping not Snapchat. Instead of strongly-worded letters, written with a quill under dainty lamplight by a man in a powdered wig and delivered by carrier pigeon...you get the point.
It's absolutely critical to set aside our bias against Millennials and understand that when it comes to generational criticism, Millennials were just dealt a tough hand. Why is this so important to accept? Because regardless of their reputation, the Millennial Generation is an unrealized powerhouse of potential that will disrupt future economic, social, and political trends more than any other generation in recent history.
Millennials Are No Longer a Subset, but the Norm
The Millennial Generation carries massive influence through its size alone: Millennials recently overtook Baby Boomers as the largest generation in the United States workforce, and they will eventually outnumber the entire remaining population combined.
Perhaps more powerful than its sheer size, however, is the generation's raw ambition and willingness to tackle global-scale challenges. Millennials are the most environmentally conscious generation ever, and have played a crucial role in shaping public opinion on climate change and investment in green technology. They're incredible entrepreneurs, creating companies that have disrupted, or even created, entire industries, including: Facebook, Instagram, DropBox, Snapchat, Airbnb, WeWork, Groupon, and Wordpress, just to list the first few. Millennials actually champion diversity and equality, as opposed to just saying they do after a specific demographic proves itself. More Millennials are college-educated than any generation prior. They place great emphasis on a company's values and purpose when seeking employment, instead of simply trading hours of their time for money.
We could go on all day, but we want to emphasize the millennial characteristic that really gets us fired up here at GiveTide: Millennials are one of the most inherently altruistic generations. Ever. Despite entering the workforce as the economy collapsed and tuition, rent, and healthcare costs skyrocketed, 84% of Millennials made a charitable donation in 2015 according to the Millennial Impact Report. In that same year, 70% of Millennials helped another raise money, 52% indicated active interest in giving monthly, and 63% gave to three or more nonprofits.
The most exciting aspect of the Millennial Generation's philanthropic engagement, however, is the disruptive approach with which it has begun to redefine the Nonprofit Sector itself. Millennials leverage social media to promote causes and rally friends. They challenge nonprofits to better themselves by scrutinizing the impact of donations and the efficiency with which they are deployed. They challenge global problems that impact humanity itself. When it comes to truly changing the world for the better, Millennials think big.
So the next time you're tempted to admonish your local Millennial, take a moment to question if you are subconsciously administering a dose of the Generational Rite of Passage, and if by doing so you are actually passing over an unrecognized opportunity. Because the team of Millennials here at GiveTide is working tirelessly to create tools that enable people to do what they can, with what they have, wherever they are, in an attempt to empower the nonprofit organizations that already drive so much good in the world. Whether you're a Baby Boomer or a Millennial, we'd like to invite you to set your age aside, and join the Tide. Philanthropy, after all, is something that belongs in every generation.