On being a Millennial

On being a Millennial

A quiz Pew Research Center posted online, called "How Millennial Are You," has me thinking.


The first time I took the quiz, I scored an 81 percent. The quiz allows you to play with responses to see how they change my overall score. Watching more TV lowered my score, as did being the reader of a daily newspaper.


I thought some of the questions were stereotypical, though. Does it really matter if I have piercings or tattoos? I certainly don't think of those factors as the ones that define my generation. It is true, though, that neither faze me, and they're common with people my age.


I'd rather Millennials be defined as a group that doesn't feel the need to do things they way they've always been done. We should be known for cherishing the importance of close friends and family members, for working well in groups  and for our entrepreneurial spirit. We work well with Baby Boomers. (I read an interesting article about this a few years ago, but can't find it now to link to it.) Boomers like Millennials because of our enthusiasm, energy. We remind some of them of their children, the article said, and we generally work well together. Interacting with Boomers makes my job enjoyable every day.


At the risk of sounding cocky, I feel lucky to be a Millennial. For those who haven't grown up with computers constantly in their homes, schools and workplaces, it can be harder to figure out the best ways to use these tools. I can't remember a time we didn't have a computer in my childhood home. I'm pretty sure my parents started me on a typing teacher game (that we accessed through DOS on a yellow-and-black computer screen) either before or right as I started school.


I signed up for my first e-mail address in fifth grade, and started communicating with my classmates on instant messenger in sixth and seventh grades. My Yahoo! IM and e-mail account came with a profile, not too unlike my Facebook profile. I've talked with friends about how different high school dating would have been without the aid of instant messaging.


I started a (now-defunct) personal blog in high school and continued writing in it through college. Using it, I learned some basic HTML, the value of links and the fact that you can build a strong community with people you've never met and never will.


Naturally, it's easier for me to grasp things like Facebook and Twitter – they're modified versions of technology I've been using for years. Lucky for me, they fit perfectly into what I do every day. I multitask like crazy, which fits well with my job, too. I'm not that techy, but if my mom has a question about her printer or my dad wants to know how to connect his laptop to a wireless network, they call me. Usually, I'm able to help.


And I believe what's been called my generation's “irreverence for institutions” comes in handy in a field that needs to be reinvented. At a time when those who've dedicated everything to newspapers and trying to change them are bowing out, I still see opportunities. In fact, I'm good at seeing challenges as a chance to make a change. Perhaps it's a generational thing.


Photo: Here I am, manning the laptop a few nights ago at the tweetup. By N-G photographer Robin Scholz

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Wenalway wrote on February 26, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Sorry, but I had to laugh at the part about the Baby Boomers. They have succeeded at bringing gridlock to major areas of the economy and of society. They spent years putting up obstacles to anyone with new ideas; to imply that now they are open to them is to miss their true motivation.

Meg Dickinson wrote on February 26, 2010 at 2:02 pm
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You have a point, although to generalize all of them that way is the same as saying all Millennials have tattoos and piercings. I know lots of Baby Boomers who are open to new ideas and prove it with their actions.

Wenalway wrote on February 26, 2010 at 6:02 pm

There is a big difference, though, between being open to new ideas at the verge of retirement and being open to them 15-20 years ago when another generation was moving into the workplace. I can see where for your generation it's great to be anointed as "the solution," as they did in Spokane, but it's fairly to extremely naive not to realize how (and why) things have changed.

Generalizations aside, it's fairly easy to trace the origins of many major problems to Baby Boomers' actions and/or inactions. The state of Social Security is a prime example, but there are others.

To put it extremely bluntly, we've had a group of extremely greedy people who grabbed what they could and then rewrote the rules. Do you know of anyone at your workplace with six weeks of vacation time? I'd bet that is a perk that is no longer possible. Automakers were on the verge of death because they promised lifetime health benefits to older workers. Today's workers are earning far less for the same work, and the difference in pay is subsidizing the benefits of people who are no longer with the company.

The people who are screaming the loudest about government spending? Boomers. The people who need the changes and the spending the most? Not Boomers. You can change parts of those two sentences repeatedly, and the answers would be the same. It's really easy for people with lifetime health benefits and six weeks of vacation time to spout platitudes, but that's a huge part of what's wrong not only with Champaign-Urbana, but also with the nation as a whole. To be blunt again, we have a community filled with aging people who have no incentive to fix some of the problems, and that flaw manifests itself with the disappearance of jobs.

Work hard -- somewhere there's a Baby Boomer relying on you to subsidize his/her retirement. Just check that FICA line on your pay stub.

P.S.: If you want to amuse yourself, go into your newspaper's archives and check the editorials of 25-30 years ago. Then look at today's. Note the differences in the topics.