“Your generation” is often used condescendingly, a way of scoffing at our naivety and the many problems of Generation Me. Our generation, falling in the 18-31 age range and known as “millennials,” is the subject of much ridicule and social despair over the loss of traditional values. We’ve been criticized for being too attached to technology--we don’t even flirt in person anymore, because that would require closing the Netflix tab and leaving the house. We’re afraid of commitment; we don’t know the meaning of true “stress” or how to work hard. The only things looser than our lips are our morals—in the 149-page report by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of religious 18-29 year olds was at 74%, compared to 85% among the 30+ age group.
On the other hand, more positive marks of the Millennial generation include creativity, and higher confidence overall in our abilities to do whatever we want. Just take a look at the 30 under 30 lists (published by Forbes each year), and prepare to feel inadequate. Most of us grew up with few limitations on what we could be, or at the very least, what we could make of ourselves. Even those of us who are jaded by the grim economic indicators, or the tragedies we have lived through, are optimistic enough to believe that there is a faint possibility for better things.
And now a look at a few stereotypes, good and bad, that highlight society’s views on Gen Y-ers.
1. The Leecher
Probably went to (expensive) prestigious private schools from age 2-22. Never had to work a day in his/her life. The Leecher doesn’t really bother looking for a ‘real’ job because his or her parents have agreed that soul-searching (taking off a few years after college to backpack across Europe/see the world) is a legitimate alternative. That, and someone in the family built an empire and/or company that will be passed down if this person ever decides to work.
2. Tatted Commitment Phobes
Not about that contract life. Doesn’t like the idea of having to promise away any fixed amount of time, whether it’s a career or a cell phone service provider contract. Pay-as-you-go, all the way. Ramblin’ man. Interestingly enough, there’s nothing against getting tattooed or pierced, or video games.
3. Poor Little Rich Kid
As a result of being privileged and relatively comfortable, this person may have developed psychological angst as a result of parents who worked too often to pay them the amount of undivided attention they feel they needed to be “normal.” But luckily, there’s plenty of money for therapy!
This millennial stereotype may or may not live in an apartment that was paid for by his/her parents. They are working hard for their money, but don’t really have real-world expenditures, since they bring home their dirty clothes every weekend and once a week, mom or dad visits to bring groceries and home-cooked meals.
5. Apathetic Compulsive Filler-Word User
This person would, like, care, if they could like, ever tear themselves away from the television/computer/smartphone screen. Who even cares about school or getting a like, a ‘real’ job, because all they want to do is have a good time. YOLO. And anyway, they’re probably going to die young. Plus, ew, marriage and having kids are for other people.
Think Tavi Gevinson, the 16-year-old girl who founded Rookie magazine, an indie internet publication with an impressive staff of writers and a devoted readership base. Or the people who wind up on the back of Doritos bags for starting a social movement at the age of 13, or even the BC students who organize 5Ks and events to demonstrate Boston’s strength in the face of adversity.
2. Super Genius/Entrepreneur
Much like the Wunderkind, these millennials decided to start businesses out of their dorm room. When the business took off, they decided to drop out of school once the business took off, and they are now making way more money than the average college graduate.
3. Vision Questers
If there’s anything that the generations before us have to admit our generation is good at, it’s defying the odds with a healthy disregard for the impossible (a quote borrowed from a retreat I went to last May). As a result, there’s room for people to come up with huge, world-changing ideas and actually fulfill them, or at the very least, believe in it enough to do something socially responsible.
4. Self-Made Millennial
They took active roles in changing their situations, whether it was through applying to a scholarship program (if their obstacle was socioeconomically related), or simply through demonstrating their ambition and getting in touch with the right people (a-la-Tracy Britt, who emailed Warren Buffet and got a job at Berkshire Hathaway Inc. as Buffet’s financial advisor at 28). Just check the 30-under-30 and weep if you are not doing something as cool as these people.
5. Social Entrepreneur
A title that only gained widespread usage about a decade ago, these are the people who combine innovation, drive, and environmental friendliness. Helped along by social media and technological advancements, this social entrepreneur may not be making the millions that some millennials are, but they are definitely making an impact. Whether it’s a college student who’s been diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer and decides to start a foundation instead of accepting death (Joshua Sommer, 24), or a paraplegic with a dream to join the navy—and graduates the Naval Academy successfully—the immense optimism of our generation strikes again.