Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Millennials In The New Millennium

Millennials: Right On The Money
By Glenn Burwell

Back in the fall of 2005 CBS aired a controversial episode of their news magazine television show 60 Minutes. The topic of conversation: the echo boomers, Generation Y, the millennials, three very different names for the exact same group of people; Americans born between 1982 and 1995.

Over achieving, over managed, technology dependent, team playing, consuming ($170 billion a year), traditionalists, best describes the way the generation was portrayed in the 60 Minutes report. CBS’s portrayal of the millennial generation, my generation, I might add, was right on the money - the pun much intended.

As much as I would love to jump on the peer bandwagon and denounce the episode as repugnant, and spit in the eyes of those who put the segment together, I can’t. Based on the research, and a critical look at my own generation, it’s hard to disagree with the report.

As Nick Summers of Columbia University, featured in the story said, millennials are “very pressured.” You can ask almost any echo boomer today if going to college is important, they would most likely respond, “Yeah, is it even an option?” like Jasmine Harris, 14, a sophomore at Franklin High School in Somerset, N.J. said recently. Maybe they would say, “How else could you get a good job?” like Paris Alston another sophomore at Franklin High said. The message has been ingrained in the generation, go to school and work hard, get into a decent college, get a high paying job.

Millenials born unto baby boomers, a generation whose namesake clearly explains their parents’ negative attitude toward children, have lived an incredibly organized, privileged, and sheltered existence. According to the 60 Minutes report “in the 60’s and 70’s the frontier of reproductive medicine was contraception… Now it [the culture] wants kids; it celebrates them.”

“Whether it was soccer, baseball, swimming, cheerleading, or music, almost all of my peers were involved in some type of activity, orchestrated and arranged by their parents,” says Mariana Freidhold, 19, a student at Hunter College. The baby boomers trying to compensate for the lack of “good parenting” paired with the exorbitant amount of child safety research of the 80s and 90s accounts for the much coddled millennials.

As far as consumerism, my generation personifies the word. You have to have what the media and the majority says is “cool” or “in.” Most millenials who are in denial, (another characteristic of the millennials), refute this argument by saying they wear what they like and they aren’t influenced by mass media. Right. To that I would say, consumerism goes far beyond what you wear. Included is your music, the most popular YouTube videos, political beliefs, which are all, spoon-fed to us through the media and we are happy to take a bite.

The fact is, the report was undeniably correct about the generation’s serious obsession and dependence on technology. I’ll be the first to admit I am a technology whore, I like it, love it, and would gladly have more of it. Millennials can’t live without their technology, and if they can the feat is quite difficult.

Marymount Manhattan student Gina Mobilio compared a millennial’s lack of technology to going through withdrawal from heroin. It may seem funny, but for Louis Padilla, 22, the joke is a reality. “I remember when I lost my Blackberry on vacation and I couldn’t check my email or make phone calls as soon as I wanted for a week. I can honestly say that was one of the worst times in my entire life. I was seriously sick!”

In watching the 60 Minutes report I didn’t find it to be particularly negative or accusatory of my generation. I saw it as a rather informative observation based on years of research. To my peers, a generations of winners, who disagree with the report, you lose. The score is 1-0, CBS in the lead.

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