What are millennials?
We just don’t know. Countless old opinion writers have tried to categorise them. I thought I saw one once. I don’t know. It might have been a smartphone. You know those millennials, always on their phones. What an insightful and original thought. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. My name is Zach Eastwood, and I’m a millennial. I know, don’t act too shocked. The kid in his bedroom writing about how Marvel is so great and DC isn’t doing so crash hot. He’s a millennial? Yes, the true is out.
Or is it? Am I a millennial? If you Google ‘what are millennials’, Google will spit a definition out at you. A millennial is anyone reaching young adulthood in the 21st century. Now, let me get out my fancy new cal-cu-lator and run the numbers. But first, we have to define young adulthood. If we take the most generous view of young adulthood, 25, then let’s run the numbers. 2000 minus 25, is 1975. 2017 minus 25 is 1992. So, if we take this definition to its extremes, millennials are those born between 1975 and 1992. That doesn’t sound right, does it? Not exactly the smartphone generation. Does that mean that 25 is not a young adult? Let’s try another number. 19. Young, check. Adult, technically. 2000 minus 19 equals 1981. 2017 minus 19 is 1998. So, this is our millennial. Born between 1981 and 1998. Ok, enough math. Clearly, Google’s definition is a little messy. I’ll tell you the actual numbers.
According to Adam Conover at about 4:35 in this excellent video, then millennials is nebulously given as being from 1980 onwards. Let me do my math again. According to this information, the oldest millennial is 37. You know, those people in their late 30s, that’s what millennials are. Always on their phones, on social media. Those are the people not buying diamonds (a real article) and not entering the housing market (another real article). Why aren’t I buying diamonds, you guys? (I’m a broke ass artist). Why aren’t I entering the housing market? (Gee, I wonder). Also, to indulge in a bit of absurdism, that definition I mentioned earlier “anyone reaching young adulthood in the 21st century” and the 1980s claim means that young adulthood is 20, then the last millennial will be born in 2080. That’s momentous. The generation that lasted 100 years. Can you imagine how many people that would be? 100 years ago, there were a billion people, today there are seven billion. I can’t even do that sort of exponential population growth math. Let’s make a better definition.
When people talk about millennials we picture two things: 20 somethings, and teenagers. If we must have any definition of millennials then it should be this: Someone born prior to the 21st century, who will turn 20 in the 21st century. If we have to box people in, this is perhaps the best definition of the vague concept of millennials. People born from 1980 to 1999. From this, you can see the potential interesting thing. The millennial generation is almost over. The last millennial will turn 20 in 2019. Now that we’ve finally defined millennials. Now for the next bombshell, millennials don’t exist. There’s only one generation that does exist according to the American Census Bureau: the Baby Boomers. People aren’t so easy to pigeonhole, though.
I was born in 1994. Safely in the bosom of most any millennial time period. The Baby Boomers are defined by their parents boning across a twenty-year period and creating the next generation. (As soon as I mentioned BB’s I got a lot more spiteful. I want to be clear. I know some nice BB’s. But some of them are the sort of people who write anti-millennial articles and tv shows. So, like the petulant child they claim I am, I will simply say, they started it. Na-nana-naa-nah. But if you’re a BB and aren’t writing anti-millennial think pieces you’re probably alright.) Anyway, does that mean that generations are defined by their parents? That can’t be right as my parents are a good twenty years younger than my peers and the Time article calls millennials the children of BB’s, which doesn’t ring true for me. I think I might be jumping a few steps somewhere but that’s kind of my point. Trying to define generations is like trying to catch an eel with a butter knife. Everything’s slippery. The earlier mentioned Adam Conover video is a good debunking of the millennial myth.
You want to know the truth about ‘millennials’. We’re just like everyone else. Before smartphones, it was video games. Before video games, it was computers. Before computers, it was TV. Before TV, it was radio. Before radio, it was newspapers. And on, and on, ad infinitium. People have been complaining about people younger than them since there were people. It’s a trick our brains play on us all. It’s that cloying for our lost past, mixed with the march of time. Honestly, I sometimes think my sister is from a different world than me, and we were born only five years apart. The alternative is that humanity is progressing ever onward, and you risk being a relic of the past. No one wants to be in the past while living. In the wise words of Abraham Simpson “I used to be with it. But then they changed what it was. Now what I’m with isn’t it, and what’s it seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you”.
So, I want to challenge us to be better. My fellow millennials, be the first generation to see the brilliance in the next ‘generation’. Be open, be loving, be understanding. For those who aren’t millennials, be kind to us. Contrary to popular belief we didn’t all get participation trophies which fuelled our narcissism. We weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouth. We’re just people trying to find our place in the world, and it gets hard to do that when every other day there’s some new study done about us or some stupid director who thinks he gets millennials. I didn’t want to be this grumpy. Lex Luthor used to be an evil business magnate, preying on the poor and complaining illegal aliens. Now he’s Mark Zuckerberg.
So, in the words of Griffin McElroy: “Hey CBS, can you fucking chill out for a second! They’re so fucking mad at us. I didn’t do anything! I didn’t do anything.”
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