One thing that distinguishes millennials is their love affair with social media and its spoils. I consider myself a fairly normal millennial. We like FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and all the networking sites which may be in part because we are the target demographic for all of them. Like other millennials, I have most of the social media things, I don’t, however, document every moment of every day. This is something millennials are often accused of doing. For myself, there are a few private thoughts that I keep secret from FaceBook and Instagram, but in general, I am fairly active. Some would say this is one of the exclusively negative traits of my generation, the “living online” sharing every second of every moment with your social network. I have heard more than once the phrase “I don’t understand the FaceBook. Who has that much time?”
That line is a beautiful picture of what makes generational differentiators so significant. There is certainly good and bad within that dialogue though. Within the context of that question, either is possible. Good can come from asking questions, but so can bad. Things I find discouraging would be when a member of one generation completely disregards or disengages with a member of another. Let’s dissect the question about FaceBook above for instance. Perhaps a boomer or member from “The greatest generation ever” dislikes FaceBook or maybe just doesn’t get it. Let’s say that I have the opportunity to speak with them about it because I am there pastor. This actually happens often as I am a young pastor and I have a number of more “seasoned” individuals in my congregation. One of two things normally occurs…
- I engage in a meaningful discussion with my elder. I do my best to answer questions asked, especially those pertaining to my generation’s perspective. In turn, my elder seems genuinely interested to understand my point of view. This doesn’t mean that if they dislike Facebook their opinion changes, but it does mean they gain perhaps the slightest increase in understanding as to why my generation behaves in the manner it does. As a result, common ground is established and relationships are built.
- This elder basically makes a point of lecturing, even berating me, for all the things that frustrate them about my generations love affair with Facebook. They also make sure I am aware of why they have decided FaceBook is not for them and create a narrative with their dialogue that makes any disagreement sound assinine. Basically, they eliminate any possible chance for common ground to be attained in a conversation about a topic that is less than trivial. With no common ground, opportunities to build relationships cross-generations shrivel up and die.
I think this second example stems from fear of the different, fear of the unknown. It’s these kinds of fears that lead to so many labeling my generation with “why do millennials always (fill in the blank with some negative attributes of your choosing)” talk…
Why Do Millennials Always…
If you missed it, millennials do lots of terrible things according to society. Just ask google like I did (pictured above) to see what many regularly search in regards to millennials. There is actually a list, check it out here, of all the things Millennials “always” do. They even make mention of things we have ruined. It’s more than a little silly, but people apparently believe it. That second reaction above is a direct response to what seems to be some attempt to explain why millennials are such a bummer. This narrative paints a picture of a person who is entitled, who is selfish, lazy, and has a fragile ego. This narrative also creates an idea that an entire generation does not know how to communicate, how to be respectful of elders, or how to live their lives without tweeting every moment of every day. Pictures of sitting on couches playing videos games in the basements of grandmothers, of individuals who don’t really do anything with their lives aside from complaining about everything are constantly painted about millennials.
I’m kind of tired of hearing about it.
Yeah, some of it is earned, but honestly, every generation had is coming of age struggles. This is ours.
So help… or continue to beat us down…
What’s sad for me is often I hear millennials say things like “well I’m not really a millennial” because of all the negative connotations attached to that label. There are plenty who would rather not identify with that label because of all the negative things said about it. It’s undermining to a generation that already has enough struggles to deal with.
Being a millennial is not a choice, it is a label given to those who were born in the 80’s and 90’s.
Ironically, most of us born in that range don’t like being labeled. Not only do we dislike being labeled, a good number of us dislike being given that label, the one used to describe something we can’t control… when we were born… It’s a burden that we did not ask for. When we have discussions with those who contribute to this negative narrative about our generation we are faced with only a few options.
We can argue that these negative assumptions about us are unfair, which then places us in the uncomfortable position of proving them wrong to those who disagree… Or… keep quiet… trying our best not to become bitter and resentful towards those who seem content to make assumptions about us. It’s not a fun position to be in.
This becomes quite a predicament in the workplace. A narrative about a generation not being good workers becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, preventing good workers within that generation from being given a fair and unbiased chance to succeed. They have to either constantly live within the social constructs developed about their generation, struggling to prove them wrong daily, or resign to accepting that no matter what they do, there will be some who continue to give them a label that they can never rid themselves of. This can ultimately lead to them become that which they hate…
To struggle against a world that thinks overwhelmingly negative things about it is disheartening. As a millennial, I have decided to be stubborn, to fight against that negativity.
- and so… so many more things we don’t hear often enough
and I am one…
There is enough misunderstanding in this world. Every corner of our existence is full of it. Politics, religion, and ideologies, in general, are breeding grounds for misunderstandings that pit one person against another.
This particular misunderstanding is pretty easy though… just stop. Stop assuming, stop generalizing, stop asserting yourself into other peoples lives and instead, listen. This is how we can help one another sort through this generation fighting and misunderstanding.
You older folks need to be willing to listen to us youngins. Youngin’s, stop talking so much and listen to the wisdom of those who have been around longer. Stop feeding into divisive talk that stereotype and marginalize entire people groups. It helps no one. Listening doing your best to see things from someone else perspective can.
As Keegan shared in an earlier post, a lot of good can happen when we ask good questions of one another. He also suggests we seek ways for our generations to learn together, to learn from one another. That’s what makes generations so beautiful. We actually have something to offer one another, even if it’s little more than a different perspective. Like those who reacted positively in the FaceBook example I shared above, there is still a large number who want to empathize and understand where a millennial comes from instead of labeling and marginalizing them, and vice-versa.
I will close with this, a scripture that I cling to as a millennial who has felt the negative effects of my label:
1 Timothy 4:12 (CEB)
12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Instead, set an example for the believers through your speech, behavior, love, faith, and by being sexually pure.
It reminds me that God doesn’t care about age, race, gender or any other human-made label. He can use anyone to willing to be part of His redemptive work for humankind. The Bible is riddled with stories of outcasts who God used to do incredible things. Millennials are no exception. We can contribute to the work of the gospel, we can find common ground cross-generationally and see how God can use anyone one of us to do His good work.
Thanks for reading…
Until next time…