Things Older Generations Just Don't Understand About Millennials

By Jake Schroeder
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Baby boomers and Generation X members sometimes have a lot of trouble understanding the perspectives and actions of their descendants. The world today is an entirely different place than it was half a century ago, which has led to a massive gap in empathy and comprehension among the generations. Many people belonging to the older generations don't understand why millennials aren't buying homes, having children or using doorbells anymore. That’s why we’re here to clear up some misconceptions.

Being Young Doesn't Mean You're a Tech Genius

Millennials are intrinsically and permanently linked to their electronic devices. All ages and all generations use laptops, smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. But millennials rely on their electronics for information, communication and financial gain in a way that previous generations never have.

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However, just because a 20-something knows how to use their phone or their laptop well doesn't mean they're a programmer or tech genius. After all, plenty of people knew how to operate television sets in the 1960s, but only a select few technicians understood how to repair them.

Participation Trophies Don't Matter to Anyone

Many boomers have complained about participation trophies and certificates. The act of rewarding a child for merely showing up is a shocking idea to many. Still, the funny thing about participation trophies is that millennials didn't decide to make them.

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Children growing up in the '90s did receive plastic trophies and paper certificates to reward participation in sporting activities or school events. Yet, it was the parents of those children who decided to give those things out — those same boomers who complain about the trophies now. Many kids realized how pointless those awards were and tossed them out.

Millennials Aren't Children or Teenagers Anymore

It can be difficult to remember that, as you get older, so does the rest of the world. While millennials were once children just like any other generation, they’re now adults. Older generations seem to assume that millennials are still teenagers or children.

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Anyone born between 1981 and 1996 is part of the millennial generation, and this large group is responsible for many social, economic and political changes and discussions currently gripping the nation. Millennials aren't children anymore, and they're not acting like it.


Their Wages Are Different Now

Wages are higher than they were during the 1950s and 1960s, that's true. But when you account for inflation and the rising cost of living, salaries just aren't keeping pace. The cost of rent has nearly doubled since 1960, and the price of a home has risen by 73%.

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Many millennials feel that they struggle to meet the benchmarks set by previous generations. Rent, home prices, student loans and healthcare costs can be overwhelming, especially for young people just entering the job market after college. Millennials often work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Fact-checking Is Necessary

When a young adult is on their smartphone, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're scrolling through social media. In addition to using their phones for work, many millennials use their phones during normal conversations to fact-check different topics or points. While it may seem strange to older generations, ensuring that the information they’re sharing is correct is crucial to millennials.

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There's a unique sense of satisfaction that comes from correctly guessing an actor's name or a quote's origin. A smartphone is a handheld, limitless encyclopedia that both validates and corrects conversation topics.

They Know Global Warming Is Something to Worry About

Though global warming has been a contested subject for the last few decades, many millennials not only believe that it’s real but also know it’s something to be seriously concerned about. Rising global temperatures and sea levels could significantly impact the way future generations live.

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Millennials often invest their money in small businesses and corporations with environmentally conscious and eco-friendly practices and products, preferring to choose items that create a minimal amount of industrial waste and pollution over products that are cheap and disposable. This devotion to environmentalism is widespread among the group.


College Is Optional for Them

The baby boomer generation was raised to believe that a college education was the key to a successful career and a happy life. They then instilled that belief in their children, and those children passed it on to their children. While these ideas came from a well-meaning place, they’ve led to a current debacle.

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A university degree is still a requirement for many positions. But instead of paying college-educated workers significantly higher salaries than trade workers or uneducated workers, employers today pay them slightly more than the minimum wage, preferring to give a raise to those with work experience.

Everyone Has the Right to Fight

Baby boomers and members of Generation X seem to forget just how much protesting occurred when they were young. Civil rights, anti-war and feminist movements are all examples of public protests and social groups that existed long before millennials.

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So, it should come as no surprise that members of this generation, like their predecessors, are more than willing to speak their minds and fight for the topics that matter most to them. Issues of gender identity, personal rights and personal freedoms are all incredibly meaningful to millennials — though every millennial has unique ideals.

Having a Child Is Expensive for Them

The age of the housewife ended long ago, and with it, inexpensive child care went out the door. Also, hospital care has risen in price and complexity, with some institutions charging new mothers a fee for merely holding their babies after they’re born. This is starkly different from the way children came into the world in the 1960s.

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Child care also costs thousands of dollars a year, and when you add healthcare, clothing, food and emergency costs into the mix, that leaves very little for rent and utilities. Many millennials are holding off on having children until they can afford them.


Jobs Expect More of Millennials

The act of getting hired is completely different now than it was 50 years ago. And once you’re hired, the tasks you're expected to complete are often varied, complex and multi-departmental. Rather than being responsible for one aspect of a job, millennials are expected to be masters of their workplaces.

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Communication with clients, coworkers, managers and supervisors must be balanced with several projects that require a wide range of skills and software to complete. Employers are only looking for applicants with years of experience and in-depth skills in their chosen fields.

They Have More Apathy but Less Fear

Millennials, as a whole, are far more cynical and apathetic than previous generations. Many have lived to see the rise of the personal computer in the home, the growth of the internet, the War on Terror and violence in schools and public areas.

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This generation was born into a world that seemed more interested in advancing technology than helping people. Consequently, many millennials struggle with depression and apathy. However, the fear felt by the American public during the World Wars and the Cold War is absent in this generation — the threat now is more existential.

Chasing Dreams Is Meaningful to Them

Older generations may remember being told that their dreams were just that: dreams. Many potential artists, actors, writers and musicians ended up working in factories or offices because their families told them that was the only way to be successful. But millennials are turning down well-paying jobs that don't help them reach their dreams and goals.

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Money isn't finite, and this is a concept embraced by the younger generations. While it's good to be financially secure, it can feel like an impossible goal to reach. Therefore, millennials believe it's better to work at jobs they enjoy.


Most Office Jobs Are Passé

The cubicle-based office is going extinct in America. Millennials — warned of the dangers of submitting themselves to boring office jobs — decided to avoid the office and stay at home instead. Remote work is more prevalent today than it has ever been before, allowing young workers to file paperwork and fill out spreadsheets from the comfort of their couches.

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This change in workflow and employer expectations has led to a significant decrease in office jobs. And modern offices no longer feature tiny cubbies for their employees, but are open and inviting instead.

Takeout Isn't Only Preferred — It's Necessary

Because many millennials work multiple jobs, they have little time to cook for themselves in the rare moments that they’re home, have food in the refrigerator and aren’t busy doing something else like sleeping. Time and tiredness ensure that millennials aren't slaving over hot ovens but rather heading out for quick meals.

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Or having them delivered. Apps like UberEats, Grubhub and DoorDash make ordering nearly any kind of meal absolutely effortless, eliminating the need to visit a local grocery store and stock up on ingredients.

They Feel Doorbells Are Pointless

As soon as cellphones entered the hands of the millennial generation in the early 2000s, doorbells became superfluous. A phone call or text is a direct, quiet way to let someone know that you’re at their home. A doorbell, on the other hand, disturbs every person in the house.

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Instead of coming face to face with an annoyed parent and having to ask where their child was, you could text or call your friend directly and let them know that you were outside and ready to hang out. Bye-bye, doorbell!


Wine Is Fine

Wine came back into fashion with the millennial generation. It’s a slightly healthier option than beer that won't immediately cause you to gain weight, and millennials were attracted to the sophistication associated with wine.

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These factors led to young adults choosing wine over beer or hard liquor. Vineyards now specialize in wines designed specifically to satisfy the tastes of millennial consumers. An interest in artisanal cheeses, fresh fruits and steamed vegetables accompanied this trend, reflecting the desire of the younger generations to return to an age of simplicity.

Virtual Learning Is Just as Effective

There's no shame in earning an online degree or attending a virtual school. Technology has improved, allowing instructors to communicate and lecture via webcams and microphones.

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Millennials who are busy with multiple jobs, projects and relationships often have no time to drive to campus and sit through a two-hour lecture. But online learning typically offers more flexible due dates and timelines. Younger generations can pursue degrees in their free time while keeping roofs over their heads.

Comparing Salaries Is Beneficial

Talking with your coworkers about what each of you makes was not only taboo in days of yore — in some cases it was illegal. While some companies still adhere to this rule, many others encourage their employees to compare salaries. Fairness is an imperative idea for most millennials, so making sure that you're earning a proper amount is crucial.

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Millennials want to know that they’re respected as individuals and as employees, and large pay gaps among employees tend to raise a red flag that not everyone is being treated equally. However, higher pay for harder work is expected.


Consistent, Constructive Feedback Is Important

Rather than waiting for quarterly performance reviews, millennials expect constant feedback about their performance to do their best. Small, consistent errors or sudden large ones are expected to be communicated to them via their managers immediately. Bringing up a past mistake long after it has happened is a terrible way to help a millennial improve their performance.

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The younger generations experience a fast-paced lifestyle that didn’t exist decades ago. Things that aren’t immediate are often either forgotten or put aside for later. Therefore, helpful criticism must arrive quickly.

Cohabitation Is a Smart Move

Cohabitation before marriage is still sometimes thought of as religious sin and social faux pas. But modern relationships require modern solutions, and with marriage becoming a less attractive option for many long-term couples, cohabitation has become a requirement more than something to avoid.

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Living together before deciding to get married allows couples to experience a taste of married life before legally signing themselves up for it. Possible problems that arise can either become reasons to break up and not pursue marriage or hurdles that a pair overcomes to build a stronger relationship.

Starter Homes Aren't Worthwhile

Millennials find it amazing that young families or newly married couples could afford to purchase "starter homes" back in the day. The cost of a home has risen so much within the last few decades that many young adults feel that the first home they buy will also be the last.

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Because of this, many millennials never buy starter homes. Instead, they attempt to pay as little rent as they can on a small apartment while saving for a medium-sized or large future home that meets their personal preferences and needs.


Online Streaming Services Are Better Than Cable

Cable television is dead. Why spend $100 or more a month on a service that only provides certain programs at specific times when you can have every single film or TV show that strikes your fancy always available, and at the tips of your fingers?

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The rise of Netflix happened in large part because of millennials. The same can be said for other video-streaming services and sites like YouTube. Younger generations don't have time to sit down and watch their favorite shows exactly when they air, instead preferring to utilize streaming services that allow them to watch at their leisure.

Community Gardens Are Fantastic

The idea of "the suburbs" has transformed within the last decade. An emphasis placed on community togetherness and recreation has replaced the emphasis on manicured lawns and brightly painted homes. Many neighborhoods are built with community centers inside or near the entrances to these developments.

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And many newer subdivisions are using that space to install community gardens, pools and recreation areas. Millennials care more about giving back to the environment and preserving it than having classically beautiful homes with personal swimming pools. This is hugely different from previous generations.

Google Gives Great Advice

Though some millennials fervently hold onto older search engines, the majority rely on Google to solve their day-to-day problems and answer questions. In the past, children turned to their parents (or the library) for advice or information. However, many millennials were raised by daycare workers, television programs and VHS tapes.

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Turning to one's parents is almost unthinkable in a lot of cases, as many millennials suffer from problems, issues and concerns that never affected previous generations. As such, Google has become the ultimate resource for any young person seeking an answer.


Instagram Is the New Photo Album

Physical photo albums are things of the past thanks to the internet. Facebook photos, Imgur and Instagram allow people of all ages and types to save their precious memories online. Rather than going to the local drugstore and handing over a film canister or disposable camera, millennials make virtual photo albums to share with family and friends.

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Instagram, in particular, is a popular option. It allows users to assign tags and input references. These options help millennials communicate their photos with larger, wider audiences.

Shopping Is Better Online

Department store browsing has now become internet browsing. Instead of driving to a store, parking the car and spending an inordinate amount of time looking at products, consumers can search through thousands of items from the comfort of their desks or sofas.

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Millennials shop online more than they do in-store for many reasons, though. The options available online tend to be far better than the ones offered in-store, and because there's more variation, there are also more items on sale. Overall, it means better prices for better products.

The Internet Is Key for Getting a Good Job

Most companies only hire through online applications. Paper resumes are now Word or Google Drive files that simply need to be uploaded to the right place. This process has proved limiting for people in older generations attempting to find new careers; many don’t have a strong online presence.

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Employers not only look for education and experience, but they now look for social media accounts and blogs. Modern employers have also been known to review a prospective employee's Facebook account before making a hiring decision. Younger generations must be active, and careful, online.


Quitting Doesn't Mean Giving Up

The idea of quitting something you don't enjoy was once considered a personality flaw. If your father signed you up for baseball, but you actually loved to run track, you'd still be seen as a quitter if you left the baseball team and joined track. This concept makes no sense to millennials.

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The younger generations don't mind quitting a job, activity or group of friends that brings them discomfort. Life is short. It’s better to enjoy the time you have than spend it pursuing something you don't care about simply for the sake of reputation.

Personal Space Is a Must

Older generations were often part of large families — the "boom" in "baby boomers." But family size has dwindled since 1950, with many young people deciding not to have children at all. This is a significant reflection of how important the self and personal space are to millennials. While older generations prefer a few or many companions, millennials need their alone time.

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Unlike older generations, young people require time away from society to reflect on the self and recuperate. Instead of taking family vacations to exotic destinations, many millennials prefer to take solo weekend road trips to unwind and relax.

Millennials Are a Diverse Group

No matter what, no two millennials are the same. A lot happened between 1981 and 1996, and the political, social and religious beliefs held by Generation Y (the millennials) vary considerably. Clumping everyone together under one name can be frustrating because, while many young people share common traits and qualities, every millennial is a genuine individual.

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No longer restrained by media influence, cultural suggestion or familial boundaries, millennials are redefining themselves and what it means to be young Americans in a world full of endless possibilities and looming responsibilities.