My boyfriend, as a diss sometimes will say to me, “you goddamn millennial.” Without fail, I’ll retort: “you’re a millennial too!” He’ll adamantly deny this truth, though what he really means (but would never actually say) is that he’s an older millennial, and I’m a younger one.
Most people define millennials as those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. The Census Bureau claims the years are 1982-2000, Pew says 1981-1997, and the Center for Generational Kinetics draws the yearly boundaries as 1977 and 1995.
Born in 1981, my boyfriend is by (nearly) all definitions an older millennial whereas I (born in ’89) am a younger one—though certainly not as young as those born in the late ’90s.
Juliet Lapidos in 2016 penned a column for the New York Times headlined “Wait, What, I’m a Millennial?” in which she wrote about her inability to identify with the many stereotypes attributed to millennials.
“I don’t identify with the kids that Time magazine described as technology-addled narcissists, the Justin Bieber fans who ‘boomerang‘ back home instead of growing up,” wrote Lapidos. Neither does my boyfriend. Nor do I. But my baby sister, born in 1996, certainly does.
According to her, she’s got a healthy dose of respect for us older millennials. She grew up with technology, whereas we watched the world slowly, then quickly, pivot towards it. Here are several other things this young millennial admires about us:
6. We witnessed the advent of the Internet.
Younger millennials raised themselves on healthy diets of Neopets, social media, and Club Penguin (am I dating myself?) My boyfriend, got around without Google maps, had to find weird and interesting bands and books through esoteric zines and word-of-mouth, and (as he pityingly recalls) had to make-do with the Sears lingerie catalogue (RIP) rather than pornhub.
5. We aren’t digital natives—but you’d never know it.
Older millennials grew up without computers and personal cellphones (I got my first one at 16, though, admittedly, this was fairly late) yet have a wider vocabulary than ellipses and random Emojis when iMessaging, unlike our parents. And I can type faster than my sister.
4. We were woke before woke was woke.
Older millennials have straddled two distinctly different worlds like no other generation in history. We were raised by baby boomers and Gen X’ers accustomed to certain ways of life, but were thrust into a world of Tinder and Instagram, a world where going to college didn’t guarantee a job and “settling down” wasn’t the ultimate goal and the previously marginalized began receiving autonomy and agency like never before. We were both drivers and adaptors of these great changes. Which leads me to my next point…
3. We helped elect America’s first black president.
I had just turned 18 when Barack Obama was elected, and I couldn’t be more proud to cast my vote for this man who stood on a platform of—and genuinely did seem to represent—change. Having grown up knowing only George Bush Jr. as president (unlike my boyfriend, who became an adolescent during the Clinton administration), this turnaround felt like the watershed moment it was.
2. We don’t feel like we’re missing out by not being on social media.
We hear over and over about how millennials are obsessed with social media. Though I like to peruse Instagram and keep a Facebook for work purposes, I don’t feel as though I’m missing something by not participating more fully, or by refusing to download Snapchat or the myriad other social media apps plaguing the Internet.
Whereas many younger millennials, unfortunately, are spending so much time on social media that it is downright ruining their self-esteem and mental and physical health.
1. We were the ones forced to deal with the economic devastation wrought by earlier generations.
I graduated college when the economy was in downright shambles. My generation was the first to enter the workforce after being “raised and educated during a period in which we were promised that if we followed the rules in certain ways, there would be gainful employment waiting for us in our early or mid-20s,” as journalist Jesse Singal wrote.
Naturally, this was not the way things went, considering the unemployment rate for new graduates rose to over nine percent between the years of 2008 and 2013. The world after the recession was fundamentally changed, and though many of us were forced to move in with our parents, we weathered it as best as we could.