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Jul 29 2012
Text M/I/S/C/ Noodleplay

Egoist: Insights on Millennials by Millennials

Originally printed in the Spring 2012 Issue of M/I/S/C Magazine, and now published at NoodlePlay.Com, in this feature, I assemble a group of ‘Millennials’ (us born roughly between 1980 and 2000) to produce a series of articles, interviews, conversations and a glossary, describing and analyzing our own generation’s activities, behaviours, and beliefs, while debunking some existing perspectives on the elusive cohort.

The Feature Intro

The existing superabundance of books, blogs, essays, articles and white-papers trying to make sense of Millennials – us born roughly between 1980 and 2000 – is evidence enough of our value as a cohort. The discordance among these sources as to what we’re actually all about points to their inadequacy, our elusiveness or more likely the problem of over-generalizing. Being a Millennial, and now working in the thriving and competitive industry of ‘trying to understand young people,’ finds one in a bit of an awkward loop.

Consider that a bunch of us have put together a series of articles such as this, in a venue such as this; it’s illuminative of several things, we love to share; we are less rebellious than Baby Boomers; more unabashedly ambitious than Gen-Xers and more willing to collaborate with ‘old people’ than either. “Don’t trust anyone over thirty” simply doesn’t apply. Yet, we’re called ‘Generation Me,’ having grown up in the age of instant gratification and information on demand.

In part, this magazine feature – whose objective is just to tune into the tone of things – plays out a narcissistic ritual that repeats every generation: the desire and subsequent activity of a social group to explain itself.

The objective here though, we’d like to think, is a more pressing kind of ego, bending into the notion of (self) improvement and looping again to the expression of it. We’re a culture of perpetual learning and enhancing, manifested in how-to youtube videos, the popularity of TED talks, self-help literature and DIY activities. What’s often termed as Millennial ‘entitlement’ instead comes from an ingrained sense, an escalating level of expectation. There is a feeling – probably because of the rapid technological progress that we’re used to – that things must always be better. Everything. Our cities. Our selves. Even our iPhones should be better. In products and transactions, we expect ease, elegance, efficiency and effectiveness, and notably inexpensiveness. Your generation can make compromises. Ours will, politely, make stuff better.

The articles that follow are light-hearted but critical, of organizations, of entertain-ment and of our Millennial selves. If you can believe it, ‘worry’ emerges as a pervasive mood of Generation Y. It’s what propels the accelerated innovation and improvement culture that we’re known for. Here, albeit with tinges of sarcasm, Gen-X residue and that post-ironic hipster thing we can’t seem to shake, the Millennial voice is a voice of concern, worried not just about the things we’re supposed to be worried about (the environment, the economy, the either volatile or impotent political climates), but frequently, worried that we’re not worried enough. That given the state of things, the tone should be ‘worried to the point of madness,’ but is instead lightly complacent.

Indulgent as it may be, the project of a generation to articulate itself is a significant one. Millennials do it constantly: the generation that de- and re-constructs itself, curates itself into some sense of itself – screaming ‘existence’ as we push forth feelers into the friend-worked air. Our energy shows itself circuiting. Gravely concerned and outwardly happy, the Millennial current galvanizes where worry and optimism move in conjunction. 

Items from this collection, posted on NoodlePlay:

Scanning The Canon: Reading Generational Insights from Pop Music

Down With Nostalgia!?!? by A-J Aronstein

Dis-Con-Nect by Nate Jackson

Interview with MTV’s Jessi Cruickshank

Unlocking Millennial Potential, interview with Christopher Bennett

Hidden Pulse, an interview with Jonnie Penn and Ben Nemtin of MTV’s The Buried Life

And

The Millennial Dictionary