Rejecting the Millennial Label
Whether it’s avocado toast, selfies or socialism, millennials always seem to be in the news. But what exactly is a millennial? While the media tend to portray millennials as a fixed age group, not all researchers agree on the exact parameters. Pew Research, for example, defines millennials as those born between 1982-1996, while researchers William Strauss and Neil Howe define them as those born between 1982-2004. Further, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation defines millennials as those born between 1980-1999.
A generation’s unique coming of age experiences certainly sheds light on certain trends. For example, members of the “GI” or “Greatest Generation” all experienced World War II which shaped their perspectives and gave them (for the most part) common cause, common patriotism and shared values of duty, honor and country.
However, tracing generational patterns differs significantly from the current exploitation of the millennial generation which ascribes to millennials specific political values, moral (or lack of moral) priorities and a narcissistic philosophy of life. As if just because you were born in the 80’s and 90’s, you must have certain beliefs and values. As if the stars aligned for you birth and according to your generational horoscope, you must be a socialist. Such assumptions about millennials deny a person’s individual ability to think for himself or herself.
Consider the many articles which instruct employers on how to “help” their millennial employees whose generation-specific perspectives clash with their own. Consider the policy consultants who teach candidates how to “reach millennials.” Or branding specialists who design marketing schemes “for millennials.” No equivalent exists for Gen X, Boomer or the Silent Generation. No one says, “I can help you sell a vacuum cleaner to a Gen Xer” or “I can win the Silent Generation voting bloc for you.”
The answer lies in the numbers. According to Pew Research, in 2019, the number of millennials will surpass the number of baby boomers. This means that they will comprise the largest number of product-purchasing adults. It also means that they will comprise the largest number of voting adults.
Creating (and marketing) a specific value-system would be a useful tool to control a group of people, would it not?
Having a specific (albeit dictated) value system feeds a person’s natural desire for community and acceptance. So, millennials who do not participate in the “millennial values” scheme are made to feel different, non-conformist and unaccepted by their age group. The use of social pressure reinforces the value-system pre-ordained by the media and popular culture.
Consider a recent internet ad: “Best Places to Live for Millennials.” Implication: If you don’t like living in these types of places you’re a loser. Marketing this way causes a person to re-think his or her own thoughts and opinions to conform with what “everybody my age” is doing.
On a lifestyle level, consider a church-attending male who doesn’t sleep with his girlfriend. Rather than being praised for having standards, he is made to feel odd. Consider the conservative female who has traditional values of family and femininity. She is made to feel old-fashioned, out-of-touch and an outlier in her generation. Thus, promoting the millennial label as a value-system creates ideological conformity through social pressure. This is a genius move if you want to win elections, raise money or sell products because it controls how an entire generation thinks of themselves and their place in the world.
Because of this perceived “value system,” millennials have been transformed into both a grievance group and a voting bloc. Re-enforced by the public narrative, many millennials believe themselves to be victims of student loan debt, victims of parents who didn’t teach them proper “adulting” or victims of a society that doesn’t understand how to meet their self-esteem needs. Additionally, public opinion expects millennials, as a voting bloc, to support big government, social programs, massive debt and wealth re-distribution.
However, the expected millennial value system denies one basic thing: that people have the freedom to think for themselves. Pushing a generational ideological agenda strips people of being able to have their own thoughts and opinions. In short, the millennial value system, stands as an oppressive form of thought conformity which leverages social pressure to achieve generational groupthink. As such, the fabricated millennial value system could actually qualify as a social construct.
This fabricated social construct seeks to deny independent thinking and to exploit both the buying and voting choices of an entire generation. It is time for millennials to think for themselves, to reject labels and to oppose generational groupthink. Rather than be a grievance group defined by socialist leanings, student debt and narcissism, millennials need to have the courage to think independently, to pursue honest dialogue and to reject the bankrupt ideas public opinion expects them to believe.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the generational group-think considered to be “millennial values.” Rather, they are written by a non-conforming, independent thinker who happens to have been born in the 1980’s.
Originally published on Patriot Post, July 5, 2018
Image Credit: viewapart/BigStock