Millennials must take pride in their present and future

By Editor-in-Chief

Some viewers of the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards found it funny when Kanye West dubbed himself part of the millennial generation. At 38, he’s not technically part of the 18–34 crew, but his attitudes might be more in line with this generation than many in the appropriate age group.

 A Sept. 3 Pew Research Center report revealed just 40 percent of millennials identify with the generational label. But why did West, who actually belongs in the generation X pool—those ages 35–50—state, “We are millennials, bro. This is a new mentality,” in his acceptance of the Video Vanguard Award? Despite Twitter’s outpour the same night from actual millennials declaring West could not label himself as such, he insists the label is more a state of mind than a matter of birth year. 

A 2010 Pew survey described the blossoming millennial generation as confident, self-expressive, liberal and open to change. By definition, West is the perfect fit. The artist known for calling himself a god spent much of his acceptance speech calling upon his adopted generation to display those qualities. He urged millennials to express themselves, learn confidence and not teach their children low self-esteem driven by brand obsession, as he suggests  previous generations may have done. 

West is promoting self-confidence, but he’s preaching to a group that refers to its members as “self-absorbed,” “wasteful” and “greedy,” according to the report. By contrast, the gen X-ers and baby boomers were 20–40 percent more likely to take ownership of their generational label, according to the Sept. 3 report, and they commonly used terms like “responsible,” “hard-working” and “self-reliant” to describe their groups. 

The report observes that many millennials have not yet reached the point in their lives of having great responsibility.  The oldest members are about 34 years old and might not have purchased a home or had children, but the report suggests this is likely to change by the time the next generational survey rolls around in 2020.

Aside from confidence, millennials rated themselves the lowest in each category compared to all other generations, with their most positive responses being that 36 percent of respondents called themselves “hard-working,” compared to 54 percent of gen X and 77 percent of baby boomers. In terms of empathy, 27 percent of millennial respondents said their generation is “compassionate,” not too far behind gen X at 33 percent and boomers at 47 percent. 

As a millennial, I have seen peers express disdain for the generational label many times. The only time anyone within my age group even utters the word  is when it is the butt of a joke. Although the notion of labeling each generation is more a tool for social scientists and market researchers, it’s still surprising that millennials don’t have just a shred more pride. The report revealed that not only do most millennials reject the term, but many would rather adopt a different label—about 33 percent consider themselves part of gen X, and only 45 percent of younger millennials ages 18–26 identify with the group. 

The disconnect may be a result of most of millenials growing up during a technological revolution, causing parents and teachers to refer to the generation as “lazy,” “spoiled” or “misguided” because homework was done with the help of a Google search. However, millennials should take pride in being the first generation to be at the forefront of the development of these new communication methods. They grew up with the Internet, cell phones and social media—all things they didn’t have to adapt to or learn to love. 

As the most populous living generation and the majority of the U.S. workforce, millennials should build a sense of confidence. If they really are open to change, they will innovate, creating new industries and setting the tone for social expectations of generations to come, making good on West’s call that they become a generation of more confident, creative and well-meaning individuals.