Millennials aren't a demographic. They're a trending topic.
Just like the internet, we, the generation birthed in the same era, seem to have adopted a reputation for disrupting modern civilization.
We are, like the internet, both helpful and annoying, forward thinking and yet disruptive, go-getters and self-entitled, etc.
Let me add that I have an extreme amount of respect for those who have come before me--and I would be incredibly naive to think that I, in my 20s, have somehow surpassed those who have clearly seen more of the world. This is by no means an attempt to dethrone or condemn older generations, but instead, to shed some light on our own.
We were born and raised in a different time.
1. We grew up in a world where anything and everything is possible.
What you are exposed to as a child shapes so much of who you ultimately become. Imagine being a 7-year-old and sitting in front of a computer on which you could type anything you wanted into a search engine (Google) and have it appear in front of you. To older generations, that was magic. To us, it was normal. Please do not misconstrue our wild imaginations. It's all we know.
2. We actually really do appreciate time away from technology.
As much as it's believed that Millennials are screen addicts, trust that we are as worried for the next generation as you are. At least for us, there was that gap in our early years between VHS and Napster, when having fun still consisted of, you know, going outside and playing in the grass. We are not as immersed as you might think--and many of us hope to find ways to help our own kids find a balance between the real and the digital.
3. We are not narcissistic. We just know what works.
Since our modern-day world is ruled by digital social tools, we understand the rules of the game. We know that people want to see people. And yet, when we post about ourselves, we are slaughtered for being "narcissistic." Go look up the definition of narcissism. While there is a gray area, posting a selfie is not the same as being a true, evil narcissist. We just know selfies get higher engagement. Chill.
4. You need us, just like we need you.
The generation gap is fascinating. The most prized spending demographics lean younger, however, and to capture their attention you need to speak their language. Older generations, the ones who own the big companies and big brands, then need Millennials to help translate those messages to the demographics they hope to target--and in turn, we, as Millennials, need the older generations to help support our wild ideas. And, statistically speaking, the older generations are the ones with the funding. Can't we stop fighting and just work together?
5. We face a very different set of challenges. Not easier or harder--different.
You grew up in a time when you had access to only what was within your proximity--which meant as the world expanded (and more rapidly with the internet), you were left with a feeling of "I remember when things were simple." We, on the other hand, grew up in an era when anything and everything was accessible, all the time. Our issue is not "the world used to be simple, and now it's expanding." Our issue is that the world and what we have access to is expanding so fast, and we have no idea how to create simplicity for ourselves.
We will never know what it was like to grow up in your time period, and you will never know what it is like growing up in this one. One is not better or worse. They are different--and it's on both parties to seek to understand each other.
6. We are trying to learn from you. Do not put us down for doing so.
Whenever studies come out saying that Millennials would rather work fewer hours per week, would rather make less if it meant more personal time, etc., the overwhelming consensus is that we are lazy. But what a lot of people don't consider is that we have watched our own mothers and fathers work their entire lives, slaving away for the American dream, only to obtain the house with the picket fence and still be unhappy.
Instead of walking the same path and expecting a different result, many of us want to try a different path and seek work-life balance.
7. Social media aren't good or bad. They just "are."
Social and digital media are here--and they are only going to continue growing and dominate more areas of life. When people say "It's ruining society" or "Life was better before," that's wishful thinking. Just like some days when I wish I was 9 again, and my biggest responsibility was deciding whether I wanted macaroni and cheese or frozen pizza for lunch. Digital media are here, and there is no going back. All we can do is continue to adapt and move with them and learn as we go.
8. We are vocal about who we are and whatever challenges we have gone through because we want to help others do the same.
Someone said to me once, "Twenty years ago, nobody said a word about their mental health or opened up about their emotional baggage. Now, you can't find a person under 30 who isn't proud of whatever it is they are struggling with." The person said it as if this was a bad thing. As if we were too vocal.
Personally, I don't see this as a negative at all--I see it as an overwhelming positive. In some sense, I experienced this as an adolescent. I was very sick, with undiagnosed celiac disease, and there wasn't a doctor in the Midwest who could figure out what was wrong with me. I really didn't know where to go for information.
Now? You search online for whatever it is you're struggling with, and you'll come across message boards filled with other people who are going through something similar. And if enough people are going through it, someone (or the community as a whole) tends to step up to provide a solution.
9. We are motivated by things that are emotionally satisfying.
I think this has less to do with our generation, actually, and more to do with how our world is changing. More and more, older people, too, are making career changes not geared around making more money but focused on personal health, well-being, and fulfillment.
Some are motivated by money, sure, but in general most Millennials are motivated by being part of something that is meaningful. Something that speaks to the life they strive to lead, and what they believe to be fulfilling. If you can cater to that, we will work endlessly to be part of it.
10. We have an incredible work ethic.
Speaking to No. 9 here, when we find something we love and that connects with us emotionally, our work ethic is unrivaled. We are not the "clock in and clock out" type. We would much rather (and often do) make what we are doing part of our lifestyle, instead of seeing it as a segmented portion of our day.
On the flip side, keep in mind that every time we open Instagram, we see photo after photo of a 20-year-old model on a beach in Bali with the caption, "Follow your heart and live the life of your dreams." Every message around us (in 2016) speaks to living life on your own terms. Now, it's our fault for wishing that to be true instead of putting in the hard work. But it's also important that you learn what motivates Millennials and give them a sense of purpose.
11. Our intentions are genuine.
Aside from our ADD and our instant-gratification-seeking and our inability to comprehend why someone won't give us $500 million for our cotton candy concept, we really do have the best intentions. The number of young people who want to make a difference in this world and do something positive, create a solution, solve a problem, bring people together, and help those in need is astounding.
We might be misdirected sometimes, and we might not think in the same "conventional" ways that you would, but that's kind of the point.
Otherwise, how else do you stumble upon anything new?