We’ve been talking a lot about generations around school and my libraries lately. In my course on library services for an aging population, we’ve been focusing on Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation, and the GI Generation, for obvious reasons. In my adult services class, the Boomers come up again, pig in the generational python that they are, as well as Gen Xers.
But we talk about the Millennials too. We talk about the Millennials A LOT. Information about Millennials abounds – it seems a new study about how we do things, think about things, use technology, interact with authority, go places and own things is published every day. To paraphrase and adapt what Virginia Woolf said about women in her essay “A Room of One’s Own” – “Have you any notion how many books are written about [Millennials] in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many are written by [older generations]? Are you aware that you are, perhaps, the most discussed animal in the universe?”
Even MTV is in on the studying. MTV, that product of Gen Xers that taught us that Big Brother was a game show rather than a McCarthyism trait, is trying to figure out how to nail down its new market – the youngest Millennials. In their study, they use pop culture to back up their findings. I love this. As an older Millennial, I can understand what they mean through their comparisons to Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen, and the breakdown of why we’re different and what that means for our psychology is actually pretty impressive.
For example, we older Millennials, the “Harry Potters”, were told we were “special” all the time when I was a kid – unique, just like everyone else. Whatever challenges we faced, we would come through it all right. We had endless, magical possibilities and whole worlds opened up to us with the right information. Economic growth seemed endless, college offered real possibility for advancement, and the Internet was going to fix all the world’s problems.
We learned better.
Younger Millennials, the “Katniss Everdeens”, were raised in a very different world. In fact, many people don’t consider this group to be Millennials at all – instead they’re Gen Z. They straddle the Millennial optimism and the rather brusque reality of coming of age in a deep recession and time of war. They are survivalists, and understand technology as a part of the world, rather than an addition to it. There is no magic wand – there is economic struggle, particularly for young people. College is a debt with no guaranteed outcome. There is the continued expanse of Big Brother, but now via social media as well.
One of my professors explained that for those of us whose formative years came after 9/11, the world was formed by guns and the Internet.
What a combination.