As soon as an average older person hears about millennials, the words that come to mind often deal with being selfish, lazy, or stubborn. Of course, the next thought that instantly comes to mind is the culture of older people who do not seem to understand the younger generation. Things rapidly change as soon as one provides statistics or studies that explore this subject in greater depth. This is exactly what this long article will offer, quoting respected individuals who have studied the millennials through the lens of science. The proof is what matters, as the younger people would say!
Let us start with some statistical data right away: since we have mentioned narcissistic personality disorder, it is sufficient to say according to the National Institutes of Health, it is met nearly three times as high among people who are in their 20s when compared to the generation that is currently 65 years old or older. Moreover, 58% more college students have scored higher in terms of narcissism in 2009 than in 1982. It brings up serious concerns about self-admiration and some other similar issues. The reason for that is a complex mixture of current attitudes that we have today.
For example, millennials receive so much attention and mental trophies as they grow up that about 40% of them believe that they are worth being promoted every two years even if they do not perform well. They are also obsessed with the fame factor. We can see that even middle school girls would like to grow up sooner to become a personal assistant to some celebrity or would like to become a Senator as the private surveys show. Speaking of the boys, they would like to pick the assistant job over becoming a CEO of a major company. According to the National Study of Youth and Religion, the problem lies in being convinced of one's greatness and the lack of any guiding morals that do not make it possible to determine what is right or wrong. As for their development, they are also in stagnation: more people aged between 18 and 29 live with their parents and are not mature enough to start a family and become responsible, as the Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults shows.
Still, the worst problem is their laziness. Taking a quick look at 1992, we see the report of Families and Work Institute that shows that over 80% of people under 23 dreamt of getting a job with more responsibility while the same statistics only 10 years later show that only 60% of young people thought of getting a good job.
If you are still wondering about who these mysterious Millennials are, one can say that it will always depend on whom you ask about it. Still, this term speaks of people born between 1980 and 2000. It does not sound overly complex once you start learning more about the subject. It can be said that we study those who are also born after 2000 if we consider the teens and those who are over twenty at the moment of this article. Currently representing over 80 million people, they are also the biggest age group in U.S. history. Of course, no millennial group is the same if we look at European or Asian countries, yet it is globalization, constant use of smartphones, and social media that make them follow the same concepts and rules.
Think about exporting the Western culture and social communications via smartphones and Facebook to get an idea that millennials all over the world are mostly similar to one another even when compared to older generations. It encompasses countries like China and Japan where they follow their family's history. Nevertheless, the Internet, the urban style of life, and the one-child policy still paved the way for a generation that is overly confident and self-obsessed, just like it is in the Western world. Contrary to the popular belief, it is not only about those rich kids that have it all right from the start because even the families with low income have even higher rates of self-admiration and technology addiction compared to those who have a higher income.
The millennials represent one of the most threatening and exciting generation groups since the baby boomers in terms of social revolution and control. It is not even because they work hard at taking over the so-called Establishment but because they are growing up without even following one. Look back at the Industrial Revolution that has supposedly helped make people more powerful as individuals. For example, they could move to a certain city, start some business or form certain organizations. Things are much more complex when we think about the Information Revolution that has given different kinds of powers to individuals because of technology that has allowed them to compete and fight against powerful actors. For example, hackers versus large corporations, bloggers versus newspapers, terrorists that fight against entire states, Youtube stars versus cinematography, application developers against entire industries. It shows that Millennials do not fight to follow as they are only learned to lead. It is what makes them so different and distant when we think of it.
The ME Generation
When we think about the Millenials in the United States, it is sufficient to say that they are the children of the baby boomers generation. They are also known as the "ME generation" because they are only thinking about their important personalities. It is technology to blame for this kind of attitude. If we look at the 1950s families by watching some wedding photo, a school picture, or even some military album photography, it will contain about ten pictures at most. Now an average middle-class family in the United States takes about 85 pictures of themselves and their pets daily. The Millennials live through the times when they represent a quantified self where every step they make is recorded online by using TikTok or Instagram. They share their whereabouts by leaving check-ins and want to know it all about their genetic data. As a result, they have much less civic engagement and their political participation is only about catching some hype, unlike their parents who wanted to follow some ideas. It is a generation that would make Walt Whitman wonder if they would even try talking of someone else except them.
If one starts thinking about why it has taken place, it is mostly because the families in the 1970s wanted to improve the lives and chances of their children by instilling self-esteem. It can be assumed that self-esteem may be good when a person thinks about getting a job or meeting friends, yet it is not enough if you want to keep your job or maintain a nice relationship. According to Roy Baumeister, a psychology professor at Florida State University and the editor of Self-Esteem: The Puzzle of Low Self-Regard, it is like one has made an honest mistake because these kids with high self-esteem could score better in school and did not get in trouble that much, yet the self-esteem is a result, not a cause. The true problem is that when people would try to boost their self-esteem, they also boost narcissism as well. It would be enough to let your children know that you love them instead of raising egoists. It would be a better message, according to Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who is also an author of Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic. Twenge believes that while it is good enough to tell your children that they are princesses or rock stars or anything that their t-shirts say, it is no longer great when a person is fourteen years old. It is quite often the case when this self-esteem makes them see that the world just refuses to affirm how amazing they are. This generation of young people today has the highest level of not having their expectations met when they try to find a better career or become satisfied as they work. According to Sean Lyons, co-editor of Managing the New Workforce: International Perspectives on the Millennial Generation, these young people are drowning in the sea of unmet expectations.
The Entitlement Effect
In case you didn't know, narcissism never comes on its own because it always comes with an awful entitlement effect. Just think about trying to promote some seminars to middle managers and ask them about how they feel about dealing with their young employees who email the company's CEOs directly and beg them to get rid of the projects that they find boring. Here we have the 12-minute reality check video called "You Are Not Special" by David McCullough, an English teacher who addressed the young audiences in his video. It has nearly 2 million hits on YouTube. It basically speaks about climbing the mental mountain to see the world and not let the world see you. McCullough states that most of the responses he has received were positive, especially from millennials. The video had about 57 likes for every dislike.
Of course, the millennials are quite cocky and alarmed about their place in the world, they are also stunted because of having prolonged a certain life stage between being a teenager and entering adult life that requires more responsibility and living a different life of a mature person. The entire idea of being different as a teenager has started in the 1920s. As we remember, in 1910 we had only a tiny percentage of children who went to high school, which is why the majority of social interactions took place within the adult circle, in the family, or in the workplace. These days we have smartphones that make it possible for kids to socialize all the time as they send and receive an average of 88 text messages a day if we look at the Pew smartphone use statistics.
They are also living under the constant influence of their friends. In truth, this peer pressure is anti-intellectual and anti-historical as well. It can be named as anti-eloquent power. According to Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory who wrote The Dumbest Generation: How The Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future, it has never been a case in history that people have been able to grow up and reach the age of 23 while being dominated by their peers. It is just like they never grow up because one has to relate to older people and some older things. What we have is like dealing with 17-year-olds who refuse to grow up and want to hang around people of their age with the same mentality. It is also often mentioned since the Obamacare times that parents need to cover their children’s health insurance until they reach the age of 26.
As we know, the Millennials are interacting all day but it is done mostly via their PC or smartphone screens. We have seen it all at bars as they sit next to each other and are still stuck in their phones. They might even look calm yet they are deeply anxious about missing out on something important in their opinion. According to various statistics, about seventy percent of them check their phones every twenty minutes and many of them experience so-called phantom pocket-vibration syndrome. According to Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University at Dominguez Hills and the author of iDisorder, they are constantly trying to reduce their anxiety by checking their phones all the time. It is like a constant hit of dopamine as they look for status updates, likes, or any messages that they are waiting for. It also reduces the thought process and creativity.
Since 1966 when the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking was first administered, the creativity scores in children have increased quite a lot through the mid-1980s, yet it has sharply dropped in 1998. As for empathy test scores, the results have also decreased significantly by starting in 2000, which was mostly because of a lack of face-to-face communication and the higher degrees of narcissism. It is safe to say that the majority of millennials lack the kind of empathy that would allow them to feel concerned for others, yet they also have trouble even understanding someone else's point of view.
The Brand Generation
What these young people know well is how to turn themselves into brands where the "friends" and "followers" rule and serve as the sales figures. As it is true for most "sales", the positivity and confidence work at their best. According to W. Keith Campbell, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia, who has written about generational increases in narcissism (especially in his book called When You Love a Man Who Loves Himself), people are inflating their importance just like balloons on Facebook and Instagram. As everyone is telling you about their vacations, parties, dinners, promotions, or things like that, one starts to embellish one's life to keep up with this style of things. If you fail to do well enough on Instagram, YouTube, or Twitter, you can easily become a microcelebrity.
Millennials grew up watching reality-TV shows, which are mostly revolving around celebrities or those narcissist documentaries that are mostly the same. It has also been a sort of training that has made similar copies of what they have seen on TV. According to most people today that are teenagers, they do not ever define who they are as a personality type until they reach their 30s. So if we take a person who defines himself or herself at the age of 14, we can see a huge evolutionary jump. As we take a look at numerous celebrities they ask the audience members about following them on Facebook or Instagram at the end and claim that everyone should because they are fun and it will make them close to someone famous who can be noticed and shared online. It is quite a culture that only young people might understand as they lack attention and some genuine care.
Still, it is not only black and white because we have exceptions to any rules or stereotypes, which has not been mentioned in this article so far. Yes, we are aware that the complaints about the millennials have also sounded egoistic with the word "we". Still, it must be noted that the purpose of this article is not telling about only bad things about a certain generation. We spoke about several scientific references and mocked reality shows and Twitter posts, yet it has been done to show how empty this culture is without empathy and compassion. It is not the number of followers that a person has but a call for changes that would bring more kindness to our world.
We all have different opinions about what the attitude of the millennial means to us. It is our life in college, our parties, and the things that we all do. We still talk to our parents every other day and depend on our parents for financial advice as we make those important decisions. It is quite possible that we are much alike to the millennials, yet everything has been so since the Reformation when Martin Luther has told Christians that they do not need the church to talk to God, which also became more pronounced at the end of the 18th century in the Romantic period when certain artists stopped using their creations to celebrate God and started to express what they felt. We also remember the book by Christopher Lasch called "The Culture of Narcissism" who said that the media has given a certain substance to the culture we live in, which has intensified the narcissistic dreams of fame and glory, encouraging common people to identify themselves with the celebrities. It has also made people hate the herd and fight against the banality of everyday existence.
It can be said that our article is mostly true as it has been confirmed by statistical information, millennials' attitude and self-obsession is mostly a continuation of what has been in the past than a revolutionary break that is different from previous generations. The Millennials are not some new species as they have mutated to adjust to this culture and the environment we live in.
Adaptation VS Overprotection
It must be noted that millennials are not a result of overprotection because it is not the case. It is an adaptation to a world where everything is way too much. According to Jeffrey Arnett, a psychology professor at Clark University, almost all of human history every person was a small-scale farmer in order to survive. Then people became farmers and factory workers of some kind. Arnett also invented the phrase known as emerging adulthood, which has been used in a wrong way by calling them twixters. In simple terms, they are the ones who can choose from a huge array of career options since they have too much to choose from. Some examples include social media and entertainers that did not exist even twenty years ago. Just like who would ever try to work his way up to a company's position when one would have at least ten jobs before reaching the age of 26. We have online dating, a Facebook community, and many ways to connect with people all over the world. We do not have to marry someone from our high school or even a home country. The life expectancy is also increasing, which makes it possible to let women get pregnant in their 40s. It brings in more freedom to postpone those big decisions. The median age for an American woman's first marriage has also increased from 20.6 (1967) to 29.3 in 2015.
Even though all these choices might end up in disappointment, it is still worth playing this game. According to one Millennial interviewed, we have a person whose Grandfather fought in the Pacific and another one in the Atlantic theater. One of them became a pilot and the other one went on to become a doctor. When a person is growing up during the Great Depression and fighting off the Nazis, you strive for safety and stability, as the 37-year-old says who has set an example for millennials when instead of using his Duke law degree to practice the subject, taking his blog rants about his drunken adventures. Turning it all into a mega-best-selling book called "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell”, we can see that things do change. Getting an independent publisher to print his book is not even surprising! According to the author, everyone would tell me that everyone above you had to use you before you got to use those below you. As we know, millennials would not want to do that.
The Millennial Behavior
If we talk about an average millennial behavior, it is exactly how the rich kids have always behaved, which is not surprising. The Internet has democratized all these opportunities for many young people by providing them access and information that has once belonged to the wealthy parts of society. Growing up in the 1980s, the majority of our editors believed that they would be nurses, lawyers, or astronauts since it was among the best options who would be chosen. Still, the people in the wealthier circles did not think much about becoming someone since they already had those safe choices. For example, if you would like to become a writer or an editor but did not know anyone in the publishing business, it would mean that you had no chances of getting a job. Yet these days you will have to shout that you know someone who knows another person. We can always hear these stories of people in an organization saying that someone has just emailed them and asked for some of their time, which has made it possible to schedule a meeting. The best part of things is that people do feel entitled to reply and act innovatively by trying several new things that were not possible before.
The Authority Matters
If we assume that millennials do not respect any authority, would it also mean that they do not resent it? The answer is quite obvious because we are not dealing with the teens who would rebel and protest. They are not even stuck in their thoughts or striving for changes. As most of us, the older generation, grew up, we saw all these TV shows where one would not see the parents who would only be the voice actors. Speaking of MTV, it has always been a parent-free zone. According to MTV’s president Stephen Friedman (who is 43 years old), it is almost obligatory to include parents nearly in all TV shows that are currently running and fall under the category of reality shows. According to Friedman, one of the research studies done by the company showed that this particular young audience always outsources their superego to their parents, which means that even those simple decisions like “should I do this or should I do that?” would be checked with the parents. Moving a little bit further, we can see the famous Google Chrome advertisement from 2021 that shows a college student engaged in a video chat with her father while telling him about her life. According to Jessica Brillhart, a filmmaker at Google’s Creative Lab, a person behind this commercial, it is only natural to assume that parents do not understand modern terms and things, which is only a cliché. Brillhart claims that the majority of her friends are parents as well who are very active on social media and follow their children and grandchildren by sharing things and following each other. If we only think about it, it is hard to ignore one’s parents if they also listen to rap music and watch your favorite TV shows along with you.
The Art of Peer-Enting
If we come to think of it, many parents of modern millennials might call their child’s upbringing style “peer-enting” instead of parenting since it is always based on peer relations that the modern youth is used to. According to Jon Murray who is the person behind the Real World and many other popular reality shows like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”, he is negotiating daily with his young son who is only 13 years old. Murray believes that all that coddling has paid off in these parent-child style relationships. Murray believes that seeing all these regular people celebrated on TV brings in some additional confidence to millennials. The young people are simply going after what they prefer. While it may disappoint some people that everyone is wishing to be on the next rung so quickly, it is a natural run of things where people like Murray might be responsible. Yet, he likes this generation and has no issues with that.
As for Kim Kardashian, it is safe to say that she represents all the things that are wrong with this generation as she turns to non-millennials. She readily admits that she has no particular talent or anything that would make her special. Still, she knows well why exactly she appeals to her peers. According to Kim, people simply like that she shares a lot of herself and that she has always been honest about the way she lives her life. People just want relationships with businesses and celebrities, which has not always been possible. For example, Gen X was kept at arm’s length from businesses and the fame. These days, when you are no longer cowed by some power, you are bound to like what a friend tells you about to a different degree than what some advertisement campaign would do even if that friend is a famous person who blindly tries to make money, even if that “friendship” is just a reply to one tweet or a Facebook message.
Would Things Remain The Same?
Even though it is too easy to believe that every millennial out there is oversharing Kardashian by posting vacation photos on Facebook, it is still actually less obnoxious than some couples from the 1960s who were spending hours in their houses along with friends and watching these terrible quality vacation slideshows. When Scott Hess, an author of the famous TedX speech called “Millennials: Who They Are and Why We Hate Them” said that if the baby boom generation had YouTube, they would become narcissistic like the current youth, it has raised quite a stir. Still, can we think about how many Instagram accounts of people we would encounter and see someone play in the mud during Woodstock shows? It is not right to blame the millennials for the use of technology that happens to exist these days. Even though the young people check their phones during class and do things we are not used to, yet just think about how long would you stand in line without checking your phone at least once? Think about being used to this technology for all your life and having to sit through some Math test!
As result, most major companies today start to adjust not only to some habits of the modern youth but also to atmospheric expectations. For example, nearly a quarter of 2,200 employees at DreamWorks are currently under 30. The studio also has a 96% retention rate. According to Dan Satterthwaite who runs the studio’s HR department, he has been in this field for 23 years and strongly believes that Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs makes it obvious that a company cannot just provide money any longer but has to focus on self-actualization in the first place. As one works at DreamWorks, it is possible to take classes in Photography, Sculpting, Painting, Cinematography, or Karate. An interesting point that must be mentioned is when one employee has told that Jujitsu is not the same as Karate, which has made Satterthwaite add this class as well, being shocked by an employee’s boldness.
Moreover, most millennials these days are actively using their leverage to negotiate much better contracts with the traditional institutions that they aim to join. Even though the Armed Forces in the United States were forced to lower their physical standards for the recruits to make things less intensive, most instructors are more impressed with millennials than with any other group that they had to work with. According to Gary Stiteler, who has worked as a recruit for more than 15 years, the majority of his generation had a sort of “it has to be done” attitude. Now the modern generation is three to four stops ahead because they actually come in and say that they want to do this, then do this when they are done, and continue with this or that.
Are Millennials Nice?
The answer is obvious, - they are nice! Even psychologists who seem to talk a lot about narcissism in their studies agree about this matter. The modern youth does not have that David Letterman’s style irony or the ennui of Generation X. They are mostly positive. Even social media has been 50/50 positive and negative, which is not the case today. What we have today is 90/10 for positive, which is probably not what most people would agree with. According to Shane Smith, the 43-year-old CEO of the Vice network, the millennials are more accepting of various differences and it is not only about gay people, women, or minorities. They are more open-minded to changes and being different. We have numerous subcultures and you can dip into them and just have a look around. It is much better to be this way. Still, it is a bit difficult to join the counterculture when there is no culture per se. It is not a US vs. THEM thing today. Probably it is a reason why millennials do not rebel.
It must be noted that some people even have some reaction against the constant self-promotion. For example, the co-founder of Snapchat, Evan Spiegel, argues that it has become too exhausting for millennials to front a perfect life on social media, which is why his team is trying to create a place where one could be in sweatpants, sitting on your bedroom bed and watching some movies on a Friday night. It would be perfectly fine to do that!
Still, if you are looking for that ultimate proof that millennials could become a great force for positive changes, remember this, Tom Brokaw, the champion of the Greatest Generation simply adores this generation. He also calls them the Wary Generation and believes that their being cautious in life’s decisions is a very smart response to the challenges of their world. According to him, their great mantra has been to challenge convention and find some new and better ways of doing things to survive. It is also a reason why that ethos transcends the wonky people who are inventing some new mobile apps by embracing the economy. Now the generation who has experienced Monika Lewinsky’s dress, 9/11, and some of the longest wars in U.S. history along with the Great Recession and Arab Spring are reminding us of the late winter flowers who are still optimistic about their personal chances of success. Even though things like that may easily become delusional, it simply has to provide better results than wearing your flannel suit and complaining or making indie movies about someone’s bad luck.
The Final Verdict
Summing things up, we can say that even though this article has started in a negative tone, it is much more rounded right now. The millennials are earnest and optimistic about this life as they embrace the system. They are pragmatic idealists, tinkerers, or life-hackers as many would call them. They are not dreamers any longer, which is not a bad thing per se! Their world is so flat that they have no leaders or role models, which is why we have Revolutions like Occupy Wall Street to Tahrir Square, which is so different when compared to anything else from the past. The modern generation wants constant approval, which is why they post photos from the dressing room as they try on clothes or try new foods at the local restaurant.
They have a massive fear of missing out and even have an acronym for everything they encounter. They are obsessed with celebrities but at the same time, they do not respectfully idolize celebrities from a distance. It is always reflected in modern magazines for young people. We can see that they are not into going to church even though they believe in God. It happens so because they do not identify themselves with big institutions. It must be added that one-third of adult people under 30 represent the highest percentage ever of religiously unaffiliated groups. What they want is some new experience, which is way more important to them than mental goods. They are cool and reserved but do not share that open passion like the past generations. They are informed but inactive at the same time. They may hate something but are not ready to do anything about it. They are pro-business people. They are financially responsible even though student loans today have hit record highs. They have a fewer household and credit-card debts than any previous generation in the country, yet it is not hard to achieve if you are living in your parents’ house and use their credit card. Finally, the millennials love their phones but hate talking on them! Does it make sense now?
Finally, they represent not only the biggest generation that we have ever known but probably the last large birth grouping that will be easy to generalize our thoughts about. We already have so-called micro-generations within the millennial group, which are always brought just like the new iPhones, depending on whether you could type before Facebook, Twitter, iPads, or Instagram. Those rising micro-generations seem horrifying to the ones right above them who are also their siblings. We can only suspect that the group after millennials is going to be even more empowered. They are already so comfortable in front of the camera that even the average American toddler already has more images of himself than some English King does in the 19th century!
That’s right: we have all this scientific information about narcissism, laziness, and entitlement, yet the greatness of this generation is not determined by some data alone. It is determined by how they react to all the challenges that befall them. It is also just as important as how WE react to their behaviors. If you think that millennials are the new greatest generation that represents optimistic entrepreneurs or think about them as the 80 million who are dwarf stars of tears depends largely on how you approach the changes. After all, we have to believe in the children as much as they do believe in us!