This 2-part series postulates a contextual understanding of the Millennial generation: How they became the way they are, and reflects on how they can realize their potential. PART 1: UNRAVELING MILLENNIALS: This representation is how the generation of the moment, i.e. the Millennial generation, has been increasingly labelled through articles and popular opinion in the media. Why do we have this seemingly unending obsession with Millennials? What is so different about them so as to necessitate a flood of opinions, research and think-pieces? Raised to believe that they are 'special', it is seen that they ultimately struggle to come to terms with the reality of not being as 'special' as they once thought. Consider the Millennial mindset, as they see and face the real world on their own. Is it unusual? HOW DID WE GET HERE?
The last two decades have rapidly redefined the world, with the technological waves of the 1990s and 2000s bringing in web 2.0, virality, smart phones and the boom of social media. However, the long aftermath of the economic crisis of 2008, twisted with the previous advances led to marked behavioural impact across the world. How did these world-altering spells affect the inquisitive and impressionable minds of young millennials, in the midst of their straggling growing up period? An article in The Economist goes on to identify the multiplying factors that contribute to the world's economic ills as the entanglement of several big upheavals that have hit the world economy in recent decades. These include jobs affected by online technology platforms and skills inequalities, rapid decline in cost of automation, the financial crisis and its long, slow recovery, and the rapid emergence of export-led China as a major economic power. The best of economists have not yet untangled the effects of the web of upheaval hitting us during those decades. Ever juxtaposed Millennials against the upheavals they were exposed to as they entered their formative teen and young adult years' This is my attempt: As Millennials entered their teens, Web 2.0 took over the internet. Viral platforms, viral media and viral software applications were the rage. People around the world became their heroes and role-models overnight, for gaining recognition and wealth in several multiples.
Web 2.0 also provided opportunities to disintermediate the old physical world. The new and young ways were in, and the old ways out. 2) Social Media logged in and mushroomed overnight. The world of millennials shrank, right into the devices they held. Their profiles became important, hyperbolic even. Social recognition and esteem sneaked in and occupied an enormous space in their subconscious. 3) Financial markets and credit were booming, reflecting the bullish sentiment of the new millenium's transformation all around. And then in 2008-09, 'bust' went the balloon and the financial markets came crashing down overnight. With the financial bust and the rapid technological upheaval combined, long-term wealth and jobs were lost and asset values came down. Millennials saw their GenX-elders lose their lifetime savings and struggle to stay abreast.
To add to this, automation and disruptive technologies resulted in the loss of jobs that led to smaller and partial jobs for so many. For the Millennials, the turmoil of the financial markets and the disruptiveness of technology have been the underpinnings of their world as they came of age. Is it a surprise if the fleeting and transitory nature of things became steeped into their minds as a constant in their life? It is no wonder that they are seen as individuals who go for experiences or services rather than ownership of products and assets' Millennials seem to be renting rather than buying houses and cars, sharing stays on travel experiences; the same non-committal attitude has carried over in relationships. They don't want to commit themselves to long-term relationships and thus delay marriage, forgo having children, and so on. It's fair to say that their economic conditions also justify this behaviour. Millennials are either stuck in a low-wage job, or are debt-ridden (if college educated).
As far as possible, they also live with their parents to save on rent and other overheads. By being hired-based and experience-based, they have pruned their security investment needs. By being short-term and sharing-based in relationships, they have expanded their base of belonging which is accessible as and when required.
THE SELFIE GENERATION: With all the above combined, the generation has ended up commensurately adopting an 'I, ME and MYSELF' approach. In the social media world of ever changing fads, fetishes and celebrities, how do you manoeuvre yourself into keeping up with peer pressure, unrealistic standards and sometimes overnight stardom, for whatever period of time? This is the constant stressful obsession they appear habituated to carry. Accompanying this compulsive way of life are the familiar but subtle companions of peer pressure, self-worth issues and social isolation tendencies. After all, they put up a hyperbolic presence and hyperbolic actions to justify the status through selfies, videos or vlogs of even the most mundane activities they partake in. How can they be therefore seen as their authentic selves? So, where does the millennial generation go from here? What are their priorities? And how can they sustain a path to success based on the transitory and inflated planks that seem to have become their co-travelers? Stay tuned as we break it down further in part two of this series.
You can read the second part of our blog series Millennial (The) Conundrum: Part 2 here. About the author: Sanjay is an author and a corporate professional turned entrepreneur. Sanjay is passionate about stimulating evolutionary change. Through his latest endeavor, ConsciousLeap, he seeks to trigger the spark of consciousness, using the literary and technology media to engender self-reflection. ConsciousLeap seeks to facilitate millennials to embark on their own authentic path and design the life of their dreams, with its leading program Make You Happen. Join our digital tribe and empower yourself with the tools for achieving material and holistic fulfillment.