Let’s talk Millennials

Something that is very on topic at the moment, and has been written and talked about a lot, is the subject of Millennials.  I find this is quite close to my heart because – obviously I am too old to be one myself, but I have kind of raised three Millennials.  Although the parameters of when you are born are quite precise to make you a Millennial, it’s neither here nor there, as there is an entire generation below us who have been deemed to be entitled.

Lets look at this.  The generation in question were raised in a very different way to the way I was raised.  We definitely had to wait longer for things and there was no throw away society.  By that I mean we saved and once we bought something we made it last.  Clothes were expensive and your wardrobe was limited.  None of these cheap high street chains to shop from.  There was no immediate deliveries of an item if you wanted it, and you even had to wait two weeks for your photos to be developed.  But perhaps that made it all the sweeter.  On that subject we put disposable cameras on the tables at two of our children’s 21st.  It was the first time that they had ever waited for photographs to be developed, but this gave them a small insight into the world we came from.

But it is tempting to say as my father would ‘in my day’!  For example each week in our maths class there was a leader board with every member of the class on it.  It was pinned to the wall for all to see and every week I was at the bottom!  Can you imagine.  I figure this would not be allowed nowadays. Not much better was when you went to collect your public exam results from school.  They all were printed out against your name and on full show for all and sundry to see.  (Perhaps as painful as being unfriended on social media would feel).  One thing is for sure it would not have been good for mental health.

What I think is we wanted to give our children the very best childhood we could, and to perhaps make sure they had things that we didn’t or simply couldn’t because they didn’t exist.  This doesn’t mean our childhoods were bad or rubbish it just means that we were aspirational for our offspring.

However, I am not sure that we knew the world was going to become quite so materialistic and by that time it was too late as they were used to life in a certain way.  In addition of course there was all the new technology.

We have three children with a five year gap, boy, girl, boy.  This means that the boys are five years apart.  Our eldest at the age of 18 used to call our youngest and his contemporaries at the age of 13, –  ‘The iPad Generation’.  He was aware of a huge gap between how things had been for him at that age and how quickly they had changed in that time frame.

So what has happened?  Disclaimer: I am not a professional and this is my opinion only, formed from experience and talking to others.  I believe we raised our children well and taught them right from wrong.  I also believe that potentially there were times when as parents we were scared to say no.  The phrase ‘but everyone has one’, or ‘but everyone is going’, rings in my ears still and I know I am not alone in that.  But I think it starts well before then.  We affirmed our children from the moment they were born.  We praised them constantly, telling them they could do anything because they were amazing, and don’t get me wrong they are.  But, and there is a but, they went through the whole of their life at school in the same vein.  In some schools (not our children’s), you heard of medals for all at sports days, A’s in subjects when the teachers were afraid of the parents.  This of course in some cases led to them getting into places that they shouldn’t have and subsequent unhappiness.  So in some ways these are failed parenting strategies on our part and are definitely not their fault or something they asked for.

So they survive school and come out into the big wide world.  You are there to support them as a parent, but you CANNOT get them their first job, or a pay rise or a promotion.  So they are alone, and most importantly suddenly not top of the heap any longer.  They are from a generation who want to make an immediate impact and a difference and make it now!  Think back to your first job, you were glad to have one, no doubt, and probably more than happy to make the tea and be office dog’s body.  But not this generation,  they want to work somewhere that has purpose and they want bean bags, astroturf carpet and free lunch.  But even if you give them all of these things they are ready to move on after six months citing that they could be doing more.  What we know that is they have so much to offer, perhaps bar the patience needed to travel this particular path.

If you ask them they will tell you that a friend or a date will cancel at a moments notice because they can.  A simple text will suffice.  Worse still you can be ghosted where they just don’t bother to reply at all.  Can you imagine the emotional strain that would put on the strongest human being.  They don’t seem to be connecting on a deeper level with friends, it’s all a bit more superficial.

So we know they didn’t ask for it, that they were born into uncertain times and that technology came along during their formative years.  So any problems they might have can only be compounded by Facebook and Instagram.  They are only seeing the best images of other peoples lives and assuming that others are having a successful and amazing life when they might be feeling miserable.  Fast forward as the world of technology did as they were growing up and look at what social media does.  We know that any positive engagement will produce a chemical called dopamine which makes you feel good.  So when you get a text it gives you a buzz, but what if you don’t get that text, or those likes on your post?  Imagine the trauma of a young child being unfriended on Facebook.  Yes, they do have a minimum age to have a Facebook account but I would put money on most kids lying about their date of birth to get their account as there is no one checking.  And remember they will have told you ‘everyone has one’!

Add to the mix a sense of impatience and being used to instant gratification and you have an ugly cocktail. They need to understand that some things for example love, cannot be hurried and need to be worked at.  Promotion needs to be earned and will invariably take more time that they expected because they have rushed through everything else to get to this stage.

Where does this leave them?  There is no doubt that they are a remarkable generation and one that could teach us a thing or two.  However, I believe there is an entire generation who are growing up with a sense of low self esteem. We are certainly seeing a generation with the highest suicide rate. They are good at putting filters on things thanks to social media.  In doing so they are often turning to their device rather than a person when they are struggling or worst depressed.  It doesn’t get any better for the generations coming up the ranks as health and safety has gone mad.  When two of ours went back to their old schools to work as gap students we could see the way it was unfolding.  Physical contact is something every teacher is now wary of, and for example sun cream can only be applied to the arms and face, and only if the parents have given their written consent. It makes me fear that we are potentially bringing up a new generation with other issues to the ones the Millennials have.

The facts about technology:

(Sources from TED)

Steve Jobs and Evan Williams never allowed their children to use iPads or mobile phones, knowing what the negative mental outcome could be.

Using less social media that you normally would, leads to a significant decrease in both depression and loneliness where they existed in the first place.

We are constantly distracted by our phones – we are carrying dopamine stimulators around in our hands or pockets.  We are constantly in search of affirmation from social media.

In real life people talk about themselves 30 to 40 percent of the time, social media increases this to 80 percent.

BUT there is a good side to social media, for example many of the Millennials have used it to set up very successful and lucrative businesses.

Keeping in touch with friends and family and connecting and networking are also a plus.

I am always interested in your thoughts and views on topics I cover.  Feel free to email me – tina@mushroomlondon.com.  Thank you for reading.

Tina x