I qualify as a “millennial”, a label that’s become somewhat of a buzz word over the past few years, and one automatically used to describe anyone with a smartphone that was, like me, born in the late 80s or 90s. It’s ironic really, isn’t it? We think we’ve evolved, but the reality of it is that society has spent decades fighting against labels (historically about race, sex or sexuality), only to invent brand new ones.
Now don’t get me wrong, “millennial” doesn’t come laden with negative connotations nor is it necessarily used in a derogatory manner, as is unfortunately the case with some other labels. Being labelled a millennial simply insinuates that we belong to the generation where technology and data have become our bread and butter, where communication is quicker and easier than ever and where nothing will ever (ever) go undocumented again in the history of time, thanks to our beloved smartphones and social media.
That being said, in a world where social media is actually the least social means of communication and the so called influencers, the kings and queens of social media who are supposed to use their fame and reputation to reach the masses, are often the most influenced, I can’t help but feel that maybe we’ve taken things too far.
Want to know my theory? I reckon we’re the generation stuck between generations, the bridge between past and future. We want the very best of the generations that came before us – the tradition, the stability, the consistency – yet we also want the “world-at-my-fingertips” freedom the future generations have to offer – the independence, the immediacy, the technology.
So, what do I mean? I mean we want it all and we want it now (if you were able to read that without putting on your best Freddie Mercury voice and singing the Queen classic, I Want It All, you deserve a medal). We don’t wake up thinking whether we want this OR that, we wake up thinking about having this AND that. We’re “milleni-alls” (forgive me, I couldn’t help myself and had to indulge in a bit of word play).
Going after it all has turned us into the generation of contradictions. We wear vintage clothes and listen to old music yet are first in line to buy the brand new iPhone when it is released. We want to be free and independent, yet don’t know how to be by ourselves and never stay single for longer than a month. We buy avocados and kale by the kilo in an attempt to eat healthy, yet order the biggest, greasiest fast food straight to our door every Saturday night (you’re welcome Uber Eats, your booming business has the millennials to thank for our addiction to takeaways). We pay big bucks to go to fancy gyms or hire personal trainers yet drive almost everywhere. Walking…what’s that?
Maybe I’m being unfair on us, as admittedly those examples make us sound like we’re all just a bunch of spoiled children, when realistically freedom of choice is simply something to be celebrated and enjoyed (thoroughly if you ask me!). If it seems like we can have it all, why not try, right? After all, our generation is one of the first to be able to take advantage of what was once unimaginable, normalising things like balancing full time work and parenthood at the same time.
So yes, we might constantly use smartphones and we might constantly burn the candle at both ends, but for what it’s worth, I’d like to think we still have some old-fashioned values mixed in there somewhere…says the girl who embarrassingly had to rely on spell check while writing this to confirm that the word millennial was indeed spelled with two Ls and two Ns. Make me feel better, surely everyone uses spell check now and again?