Embrace it, ‘millennial’ is not an insult

October 23, 2016 — by Caitlin Ju

Type “Why are millennials so —” into Google search and “lazy,” “rude,” “poor” and “dumb” will pop up as choices to fill in the blank.

Millennials, loosely used to describe anyone born from 1982 to 2002 (or, perhaps more accurately, a younger person that someone wants to insult), are mistakenly defined by short attention spans and apathy toward political affairs. The children of the baby boomers, “millennials” encompass anyone from helicopter-parented teenagers to the 34-year-olds in midlife crises.

The term is often associated with negative stereotypes (Time magazine tagged it as the Me Me Me generation).

In truth we millennials should openly embrace the word. At the same time, others should not hurl it as an insult, because just as in any other generation, we millennials have transformed the world. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 32, youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, 19, and pop icon Lady Gaga, 30, are just a few millennials who have used their voices to bring public attention to education and gender and LGBTQ equality. Being tech-savvy and outspoken aren’t bad qualities.

The older generation loves to hate millennials, just as everyone loves to blame the younger generation for the world’s problems. Change is bound to outrage those unable to keep up with it. Similar to how baby boomers were once referred to as the Spoiled Generation and Generation X-ers were “coddled complainers,” millennials now bear their own generalization of being narcissistic and entitled. With time, that characterization will fade, so we may as well transform how we view the term now and work to defy the stereotypes.

As for the truth of those stereotypes, narcissism, often confused with pride, will always be more present in younger generations. Just because teenagers love to take selfies, incorrectly viewed as the pinnacle of narcissism, it is not indicative of their larger way of thinking or acting. The Kardashians shouldn’t define 80 million other people.

Entitlement is likewise muddled with individuals knowing what they want and not agreeing with the status quo. Employers need not worry; it simply means millennials dedicate themselves to reaching increasingly higher goals. This ambition is prompted, according to Forbes, to some degree by their average $27,500 student loan debt.

Millennials continually innovate and many of them even found their own companies, often in technological fields. In addition to tweeting and sharing images supporting the latest hashtagged trend, 84 percent of millennials, the Millennial Impact Report states, made a charitable donation in 2014. According to Forbes, millennials have “matched older generations volunteering and consumer activism.”

Sadly, we buy into the perspective that the word millennial is an insult. A Pew research poll states only about 40 percent of people age 18 to 34 describe themselves as “millennials,” most wishing to distance themselves from the label.

So, here’s a self-empowering reminder of what millennial means: strong, progressive and complex. We have lived through a new definition of what family has come to mean with more single parent households than ever before. We have adapted to virtual worlds, life fitting in variously sized screens. We take jobs we love over jobs that pay more. We are the most educated generation.

And yes, call us millennials.