Please don’t call me a ‘Millennial’

By Joe Frank

(Elizabeth Hahn/ Flickr)
(Elizabeth Hahn/ Flickr)

Chances are you’ve heard of the label given to this generation of young people: a “Millennial.” And I say “given” because we didn’t choose it. Unlike other generations, which have embraced their generational names (think “Baby Boomers”), most young people do not refer to themselves as Millennials. This is where I find the most frustration with the term. Because most of the people who refer to the young generation as “Millennials” are not of that generation, the term often seems to have the connotation that Millennials are a “them.”

The term is most prevalent in the media. Headlines range from the Forbes article,  “How To Engage The Millennial Workforce” to a philly.com article  “Unlocking Millennial Talent” to “Cereal sales are falling. Is millennial laziness to blame for the breakfast food’s decline?

One common theme among all of these headlines is that they are written from an outsider’s point of view. Many of the times that “Millennial” is used, it is with condescension and perplexity. The tone seems to imply that young people are like chimpanzees – very human-like – but odd in a way that makes them not like normal humans. Other times, people make generalizations about “Millennials” and characterize them as lazy or spoiled. These generalizations represent a failure to realize that this generation is as diverse as the ones that have come before it.

The only people of my generation who I have seen use the term “Millennial” are young writers in papers like this one. Writers copy their elders and throw around the term, but the use of this term just makes these writers seem out-of-touch with their peers, even if they are not.

The rise of “Millennial” can be tied back to juvenoia, the phenomenon that older generations tend to fear younger generations and their culture. This cycle of juvenoia has occurred for centuries, but it takes the form today in the word “Millennial.”

Juvenoia is an explanation, but it does not improve the situation. An explanation does not make me like the word any more. The term “Millennial” is often paired with disdain and belittlement towards young people, so it is not a word that I will accept as an adjective for myself.

Call me a young person, call me a teen or call me a college student, but please do not refer to me a Millennial.

Joe Frank is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]