They are having more kids and abandoning helicopter parenting. They don’t want to live in sprawling, car-dependent cities. They are undercutting their own influence on social policy. They must exercise fiscal discipline. And they will dictate the future of fast food.
Such is the headline wisdom of just a handful of the hundreds of articles published weekly on the “millennials”. Also known as “Gen-Y”, this exhaustively, exhaustingly documented demographic – infamously dubbed “lazy, entitled narcissists” by Time – is defined by a recent Pew study as those born after 1981, and aged between 18 and 33.
But how different are they really from their parents?
Over to Douglas Coupland, the man who coined the term that has come to characterise those older the millennials but younger than boomers, “Generation X”.
“Everything they’ve been saying about X they’re now saying about millennials. Like, everything,” he tells Salon.com. “The only difference seems to be that X were ironic and downtrodden and millennials are hopeful and ‘more spiritual’.” Other than that, exactly the same.”
The Pew study, The Next America, classifies the Silent generation as those 69 and over (a reference to cinema, but still kind of condescending), the Boomers as 50-68 and X as 34-49.
But the next crowd coming down the slipway is yet to have settled on a label.
“Some of the names that have already been suggested and used are Digitals, iGen, Selfies, Tweenials, Hashtagers, Homelanders, Evernets, Plurals, Globalists, and 20firsters,” says Mary Meehan in a post for Forbes.com.
Terrible ideas, one and all.
And so is Meehan’s.
“I, for one, suggest we call this group Gen We,” she writes. “Many generational attitudes come as backlashes against the values of previous generations – emphasising the WE turn ideas about the Me Generation on their head. Additionally, due to technological advances, this cohort is wired and constantly connected. They’re rarely alone, even if they’re hanging out with buddies via text message, through gaming consoles or on social network sites. Their every moment is a We moment.”