For those born between 1982 and 2004* – congratulations! You make up part of the millennial generation that the world sees as powerful industry killing monsters with a sense of entitlement rivaling that of any prior generation.
* Give or take a few years – it varies depending on the source and there remains a lack of universal agreement over the exact age range.
The term was coined in 1987, during a time when George Michael's, "Faith" ruled the airwaves, Prozac was the new FDA-approved wonder drug, and a society was growing increasingly obsessed over the looming, millennium (preschoolers in 1987 would the graduating high school class of 2000). That correlation was evidently noticed, and the "millennial" was born, the term credited to William Strauss and Neil Howe, who wrote about this curious cohort in their 1991 book, "Generations - The History of America's Future," and their 2000 work, "Millennials Rising: The Next Generation." The pair of demographers believed that millennials would reject their boomer forebears' individualism and libertinism, becoming the "next Greatest Generation."
Via Lindsey Pollak
Strauss and Howe anticipated that this generation would radically reshape American life, based on their theory of repeating generational archetypes directly correlated with historical events of the time. They saw this sheltered generation resulting from the "most sweeping youth-safety movement in American history" and recognized them are a generation that consider themselves special, both as individuals and as a group, deeming them as confident, team-oriented, high-achieving, and pressured to succeed. They pretty much nailed it.
However, they didn't foresee how this innate confidence - while largely a positive trait for any other generation - would spill over into the realms of perceived entitlement and narcissism. These days, millennials are called many things, and Greatest Generation is not quite one of them. Psychologist Jean Twenge described millennials as "Generation Me" in her 2006 book and in 2013, Time magazine ran a cover story titled, "Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation." There's also "Generation 9/11" an apocalyptic name that aligns with Strauss and Howe's ideas explored in the 1997 book, "The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy."
Strauss and Howe's optimistically thought that the confident, high-achievers would yield the creation of institutions that would transform society. Instead millennials proved interested in forcing the old ones to live up to their high-minded rhetoric in a time where their future is still uncertain, reeling from unexpected economic upheaval.
Millennials are now viewed as a force of narcissistic nature, demanding treatment no one before them ever received, and drastically reshaping everything in their path, from college campuses to the housing market. According to all the media everywhere, millennials are responsible for killing pretty much everything and retain the all the power to lead to an Ayn Rand vision of a dystopia with entire industries being demolished. Millennials even get credit for brutally murdering the mayonnaise industry!
Millennials do wield a certain power, the same power that every generation to emerge has - the sheer number of millennials is intimidating and combined with the native digital language that naturally formed with exposure to emerging technology absolutely terrifies industries across the country. These older businesses view millennials as a threat while the generation sees themselves as powerless, pummeled by the world left for them by their elders.
Millennials have been surrounded by technology their whole lives, the effects only heightened by their helicopter parents (new term that emerged for overprotective baby boomer parents of millennials who are excessively involved in their children's lives), enabling constant contact. These "helicopter parents" have a tendency towards coddling and micromanaging, stemming from an inherent need to keep their children save from stranger danger (and anything else that could hurt them) and likely overcompensating for feeling neglected and unloved by their own lack of present parents. As such, millennials were raised to believe that they are special snowflakes, with the mantra "follow your dreams" instilled in them since childhood with their parents shielding them from anything that could potentially hurt their self-esteem, eliminating the very developmental phenomenon known as failure (the new apparent achievement of merely participating means that everyone gets a trophy and there are no losers).
With baby boomer parents preparing their children for the expected hyper-competitive 21st-century labor market, millennials were led to believe in meritocracy and forced into competition for their spots within it — only to find themselves paralyzed by a disintegrating job market, a catastrophic debt load and a financial crisis that struck just as large numbers were entering the workforce.
In a case of straight up bad timing, millennials collided with a time of economic trauma, creating an already disillusioned generation who entered into adulthood with unrealistic expectations, unprepared for a recession marked by structural shifts in the economy with detrimental impacts. Millennials have been defined by this era of economic trauma; stagnant wages, a skyrocketing cost of housing, colossal student debt have put millennials on the path to a lower quality of life than their parents (this is the first generation since the Silent Generation that is expected to be less economically successful than their parents).
Taking everything into consideration, it could be argued that millennials are unfairly blamed for things out of their control, victims of circumstance to a certain extent. Yes, millennials do have some unsavory traits bred from the environment around them, but perhaps society can give them just a bit a slack?