Millennials: The Next Greatest Generation?

You might think they're entitled, lazy and over-confident. You'd be right—but you'd also be wrong

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Courtesy of Oliviab33

Here are some broad descriptions about the generation known as Millennials: They’re narcissistic. They’re lazy. They’re coddled. They’re even a bit delusional.

(COVER STORY: The Me Me Me Generation)

Those aren’t just unfounded negative stereotypes about 80 million Americans born roughly between 1980 and 2000. They’re backed up by a decade of sociological research. The National Institutes of Health found that for people in their 20s, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is three times as high than the generation that’s 65 or older. In 1992, 80 percent of people under 23 wanted to one day have a job with greater responsibility; ten years later, 60 percent did. Millennials received so many participation trophies growing up that 40 percent of them think they should be promoted every two years – regardless of performance. They’re so hopeful about the future you might think they hadn’t heard of something called the Great Recession.

But that’s merely one way of looking at the largest and most important generation since the Baby Boomers. In this week’s cover story, TIME’s Joel Stein — who has a few Millennial traits himself — examines the overwhelming negative data about Millennials and argues that rather than being inherently self-centered or overconfident, millennials are just adapting quickly to a world undergoing rapid technological change. They’re optimistic, they’re confident and they’re pragmatic at a time when it can be difficult just to get by. Those aren’t bad qualities to have, even if it means they spend too much time on their phones.

Click here to read the full story, available exclusively for TIME subscribers.

364 comments
thatusernameguy
thatusernameguy

As a member of this classification, I'd like to give my input. I understand the frustration that people seem to go through because of the drastic lifestyle change that has been experienced in the last decade. It too disgusts me when I am talking to somebody and they are too caught up in reading a text message to acknowledge what I just said. However, I have met many bright people who are in my age group and they do not display these negative traits. These traits are more commonly attributed to the lazier and honestly less successful part of my generation. We all fall pray to technology because we grew up in a world where we have had instant access to anything. It is hard to abstain from something that you have had your whole life.  The comments I have read explain some valid complaints and points, but they are not significant enough to disclaim this entire article. Sure, we will not save the world. This is because the world does not need saving to start with. Many people are content with where the world is going and if they aren't, rest assured, somebody will indeed change it. Not everybody in the world can be Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson. Next, we all have complaints, but we are taught to adapt to things. Now when a problem begins to show sever malice, that is when it is our duty to step in. I leave it to the people to decide when that is necessary. But simply because we complain about issues and do nothing does not mean we are lazy or do not care. It is simply because we know how to adapt and the issue has most likely not escalated to the point where we choose to intervene. Not all of us are concentrated primarily on electronics. We are optimistic because we were taught to be so, and honestly, I've broken the law before, but I respect my elders. As matter a fact, I hate breaking the law. Why else would people push for weed legalization? Because most people don't prefer to break the law. They'd rather have it be legal. We are not generation Y. We are not a rebellious group to a mass extent and it is time for some elders to get out of that mindset. Sure, there will always be degenerates. But honesty, we all have to get out of the habit of generalizing people. Everybody is unique. Crime rates have dropped very significantly in the millennials. That is a sign of respect.


Again, being a member of this generation, I hope this does persuade you to think differently about us. We are creative and have much more potential [as referenced in the article]. There is no 'best,' we simply want to contribute. We are aware that technology plays a large role in our lives, and we see how it can be problematic. But only time will tell whether or not we utilize this in a positive or negative way.

HayleyHope
HayleyHope

This generation lacks respect....Respect for others....respect for their jobs...respect for themselves.... as a person of this generation i have had to push myself to break away from this criteria....my friends think that everyone owes them something...their boss,friends family,co workers and it all boils down to a Lack of respect. The phone example was used....just because we have access to it doesn't mean we should be on it all the freaking time...customers come into my store all the time and i want to rip their headphones right out of their ears...boyfriend is on his phone constantly...seems to me that this generation doesn't want to be part of this world at all they want to be part of a virtual world. A world where they can rant and complain about the world but not have to change it...i feel sorry for the youth and young adults of my generation....most of them are rude and inconsiderate get off your fricken phone.....get off the fricken internet ....and live a real life and not a virtual one...believe me its alot more complicated out here than it is in your virtual world....

False_Believer
False_Believer

I'm fed up with being told that every new generation is going to save the universe, then when they are put in charge, they are as clueless as the previous lot. Evolution takes millions of years.

tschuckman
tschuckman

Speaking as a millennial, I can say personally that I believe we are the first generation to be born with easy access to the internet which opens "us" up to new ideas and different perspectives, and also gives us a greater ability to look at the mistakes of the older generations in better hindsight. Yes there may be some of us who are lazy or expect the world to hand us everything, but there are also among us those who have the knowledge to think more critically than those in the past, more self-confidence to succeed and the desire to prove our many stereotypes wrong! What will become of this generation cannot be said for many years, but you can't help but feel optimistic when trivial issues such as race or gay marriage is rarely an issue and that even the most conservative among us have libertarian leanings. 

Guardgirl
Guardgirl

Before we judge the "millenials" shouldn't we point out who raised them?

whatevvvv2
whatevvvv2

This whole idea of generations is ridiculous. People are people. The environment changes but it doesn't neccessarily change the personal characteristics of someone. Remeber its not the people you're dealing with personally it is where society is shifting to together as a whole.

JimFortner
JimFortner

I think every generation goes through a period of entitlement and only thinking in terms of themselves....the problem with people researching this is when they interview previous generations, they are older and have changed their world view. Millennials are no more narcissistic than gen Y or previous... The Millennial generation are creative, collaborative and want to build their own brand. The grew up in the digital age we created so for those of you who commented about how bad this generation is, should take into account your part in creating it... If you are a Millennial and want to stand out among your peers, find advice that is helpful (not bashing your generation..please follow my blog at http://millennialcareeradvice.wordpress.com/ and follow me on Twitter at Millennial_Jobs



norlenehopkins12
norlenehopkins12

This generation of kids don't know how to work together as a group, all they think about is themselves, give me this give me that, they have aborations like there are going through a McDonald's, drive thought, they smoke pot likes its candy, they will have to be taken care of because they have smoked there brains out.

quiroga
quiroga

I find this to be a predominantly american mindset, to be honest. Whenever I would misbehave as a child my parents wouldn't hesitate to give me a good spank, and needless to say, it certainly helped me grow with a different mindset: my mom's slipper sure showed me that I wasn't as slick as I thought I was. Now whenever I tell this to any other white american my age they'll be horrified (mind you, it's just an occasional spank... in no way is my childhood traumatized by it). They find it just awful to hit their child and many are self-entitled brats themselves.

My generation has a lot to learn, we are young and still haven't grown up. However, those that weren't taught a lesson as children continue to throw their tantrums as young adults. It's only logical, and yes I will blame you parents for having spoiled your children. 

Stop complaining about the errors you have made, the annoying behavior of your children must have rubbed off on you.

DanBarnett
DanBarnett

Hi, I'm a millennial.. I guess.. (we really don't like being pigeon-holed into easily digestible classification groups for starters). I'd like to give older readers (all the way from disgruntled, anti-hipster-30-somethings to the elderly) my opinion on this apparent judgement call on an entire generation of humans. First of all I'm insulted. The fact that Time made this a cover story for it's publication and the fact that the image is of a pretty young woman, just goes to show you the disrespect and the viewpoint of my age group by our elders. We are looked at as sex objects (male and female) and as the caption read: lazy, coddled, delusional and narcissistic. That seems like a desperate expulsion of random hatred that is not manifesting based on facts. Sure the article points out that science proves these things, but did science take these exact same studies of 20-somethings 10, 20, 30 years ago? Probably not. So this evidence is based on one group without a control. Therefore it is not science. Stein's angry and disrespectful words could not be further from the truth and they are obviously projections stemming from self-doubt and the perfect demonstration of why we are frustrated with older generations: Ignorance and blind arrogance. 

We know we have to wait in order to change the system (fuel usage, wages, climate issues, Water. Food. Survival.). We will not come of age in our 40's and 50's without resistance to our very own survival. We are aware of this and that's why we tend not to take these issues with a grain of salt like so many older generations do. Accept that our ideas are good. Help us make the changes that need to be made. Stop complaining about our confidence, optimism, independence and our ability to navigate technology. It's getting old. Thanks!


R-U-SERIOUS
R-U-SERIOUS

The only problem I found with this article is the Authors "generational time lines and labels" he got it wrong. The Official "Lost Generation" according to all studies are the children born between 1933 and 1950. We are the ones who brought the Greatest Generations "work ethic" and values forward and parented the X generation. We also brought forward the Greatest Generations bigotry and racism but we didn't pass it on to our children. We are the generation that objected to the "Self Esteem" crowd and raised our children to be independent and hard working, we allowed them to experience failure, because we were allowed to fail and one can learn as much from failure as they can from success. Being allowed to fail and then picking yourself up and moving forward having learned valuable lessons of life made them stronger and more self confident.They didn't need a "trophy for participation, their success was their trophy.  It was our generation that moved the "Helping Others" agenda forward and we get little or no credit for it. We didn't screw up the post WWII economy either, we kept it moving and enjoyed nearly full employment up through the early 1960s. We were highly Unionized and politically active. Our High School Educations were equivalent to what you get after graduating from Community Colleges now. We were successful in Business and sports reaching the highest positions in both. 

Then came the Baby Boomers, the progeny of the Greatest Generations War Vets, the so called "me" generation who brought with them selfishness and greed and a serious lack of ethics and concern for others. They taught their Children to not respect adult authority. They taught their children that they were "special" and there would be no consequences for their behavior, good or bad. They raised a generation of people who believed the world owed them a living.

In my Career as a Labor Relations Professional I found the Children of the Boomers to be basically lazy and self absorbed. They could not understand why their employers and /or supervisors did not promote them just because they were there. After all they were "special" and should be promoted regardless of merit. They also couldn't understand why they were considered late for work when they were there early but spent the first half hour drinking coffee and BSing before starting to work. I don't know what the melenials will do, I find many of them engaging and too trusting but they do not carry the Bigotry and prejudices of their parents.  In that there is hope for a better future.  I'm as old as dirt now, but I have faith that the young people of today can learn from their Parents mistakes and will "Get IT" and save this Country and this planet. 

Fumei Su
Fumei Su

fights between generations, or reflection among generations ?

Generation_Unemployed
Generation_Unemployed

Hello folks, for all of you who wrote quality rebuttals to Joel Stein's article online on your own sites or blogs, I want to encourage that you try and send it as a letter to the editor of TIME magazine. Hopefully, a decent one will be selected and printed in the next edition. It may be, for many people, the only way folks of the baby boomer generation who still pay for and read TIME will see the opposing arguments/ interpretation of data/ other more refutable data and studies. Use statistics, cite the sources, and keep it succinct and to the point, because they probably won't print anything very long. I had to drive to the library in the next city over so I could read the full article because I think TIME is still a significant publication in our culture and I wanted to understand if there is anything positive about our generation's circumstances. I came away disturbed, that in addition to the insurmountable struggles we face, we are considered by many as being lazy and entitled for having them. I'm gravely disappointed at the fact that the difficulties of the current recession wasn't mentioned as a contributing factor to why much of our generation is unemployed/underemployed.

(On my soapbox) I'm 27, have two college degrees, worked several jobs in my lifetime since the age of 16 but have been unemployed for a while now ever since leaving college, and I don't have any parents providing for me because one is severely disabled and the other is dead. Kind of stings a bit to be considered the Me, Me, Me generation. 

There are times when I do have to catch myself in generalizing and dismissing the current teenage generation when I notice significant differences from my own experience and values, same thing with the baby boomers. It is important for us all to attempt to understand each other's backgrounds and maintain objectivity if we are going to create useful observations about our generation. 

spk_esy
spk_esy

I am part of so called gen ex (it is like sun signs- dividing entire humanity in 12 or so categories). When I started reading the article I thought of bringing out insights from it to post on my Facebook page as venom against technology and young people (we over the hills have an irrational hatred for the youth). However, by the time I ended the article all steam was taken out of me due to the balance that the article achieved. This sissy author did not stick with Lazy, narcissistic and entitled tirade but ended up doing a cowardly job of explaining the situation in a very balanced way depriving me of the binge  I was planning on my Facebook page.

It will be a good idea if the readers (of all age groups) suspend their knee jerk reactions to words and phrases and read the article as an attempt to dissect social trend- an exercise that is always fraught with danger.  Life is bigger than 140 characters and bigger attention span helps as I understood at the cost of my lost steam and a FB binge.

John Stout
John Stout

I like how some older people (like our parents age) are blaming us for the way they raised us in this feed. I'm a millennial and think most older generations are fairly unapproachable especially in the workplace.

Mel Dohan
Mel Dohan

equally, when you compare someone over 50 to someone under 30 who do you think is going to be more self centered?!!!! that statement by Stein was completely an example of apples to oranges! an irrelevant study (i could've told you that a 25 year old will be more conceded as compared to a 55 year old!) and a great example of how Generation X is renown for twisting information to fit their agenda

Cynthia Gonzales
Cynthia Gonzales

Where are the jobs for these individuals so they don't have to live with their parent? I will tell you. A lot of the jobs were sent overseas or across the border.

Duncan Fraser
Duncan Fraser

Im looking forward to driving my country into the ground with questionable judgment then blaming those too young to make the decisions.

MC
MC

"In 1992, 80 percent of people under 23 wanted to one day have a job with greater responsibility; ten years later, 60 percent did." Forgive me, my BS detectors went off and I couldn't read any further than this. I'm sure not wanting a job with more responsibility has everything to do with laziness and nothing at all to do with outdated paradigms that expect goal-oriented work in a time-oriented environment.

PhilipStephens
PhilipStephens

I think people are criticizing the article without even reading it, which is kind of funny. He may not provide statistics on the positive, but I think it's good to look at the statistics he did provide. I wrote down some of my thoughts on the topic after reading the article on my blog: http://www.philumptuous.com/blog/. But I do think the author is right when he says we're adapting to a new culture of technology.

People are criticizing this, but I've read the actual article and here's a quote from it: "So, yes, we have all that data about narcissism and laziness and entitlement. But a generation's greatness isn't determined by data; it's determined by how they react to the challenges that befall them." And then a few lines down, "Me, I choose to believe in the children."

MichaelMales
MichaelMales

When this article’s author delared “I’ve got statistics!”, I thought he’d point out that Millennials have dramatically brought down Boomer and his own Xer generations’ staggeringly high rates of murder, gun violence, property crime, rape and sexual violence, domestic violence, drug abuse, suicide and self-destructive deaths, violent death, drunken driving, unplanned pregnancy, school dropout, and other major ills, most to record lows. All this despite the fact that older generations (the most government-subsidized in history) subjected Millennials to high rates of poverty, massive increases in higher education costs, and a parent generation riddled with drug abuse, arrest, imprisonment, and family breakup.

You know, the important stuff, the life-and-death statistics. But, no. Instead, the article recycles yet another round of silly “narcissism” malarkey, a measure so meaningless that it does not correlate with or predict any important social index or trend. Examples: the young white women featured on Time’s cover and dominating discussion throughout the story actually have lower narcissism scores than the rest of the population; African Americans and other minorities have much higher narcissism scores than whites; and population groups with low narcissism scores display much higher levels of racism and other bigotries than those with high scores.

The sources for this article don’t even get their own pop-surveys right. The same ones cited to show Millennials are materialistic, lazy, and selfish also contain responses showing Millennials reject fashionable consumerism, work harder to pay for education than their elders did, and more interested in contributing to society, among positive findings the narcissism-bangers leave out. All the “narcissism” notion is good for is name-calling and cheap shots, which is why it’s so much fun for elders to hurl at the young generation after generation.

When a commentator and sources (nearly all older) repeatedly use the phrase “them” and “they think…”, either in positive or negative vein, to describe Millennials, a stunningly diverse population of 85 million people, the discussion is destined to resurrect the same old “young people today” clichés that are older than Socrates.

DerekArmstrong
DerekArmstrong

READ THE FULL ARTICLE, YOU LAZY MILLENNIALS! It's incredibly positive. 

Natalie Dawn Tirado
Natalie Dawn Tirado

You are welcome. Humanity is naturally curious, so laziness is learned. Every generation is built on the prior ones. If one generation calls a later generation lazy, thn they are essentially calling themselves enablers.

John Moody
John Moody

To be honest its hard to live up to some ideal of what I should be or what I should have and not have, as a man in his 30s now is rather just work hard at what I do and take things one step at a time. Still there is a place for this argument but it does not change the things I need do for myself in my own life.

Kiana Hugins
Kiana Hugins

Everything is run by money hungry idiots now so yeah, some of the people my generation might live with their parents to get their lives on the right road.

Kiana Hugins
Kiana Hugins

This is rude , labeling a whole generation is not okay.

John A. Schumacher
John A. Schumacher

I agree with you on Gen-X, but I am not in Gen-X. I try to hire these young fools and they are delusional. Good luck relying on them.

rf091
rf091

I'm bothered by this article.  If you have a few studies or statistics of sample populations, it shouldn't be generalized to an entire population.  In addition, the author believes that we're narcissistic and self-absorbed which is why we believe we deserve jobs after college.  Have you been to a college orientation lately?  Schools advertise themselves or market themselves saying that their students will graduate and get great jobs.  We saw our parents going to college, passing on the masters in most cases, and getting jobs or salaries that I couldn't get with a masters these days.  

Maybe the mentality of deserving a job after graduating comes form our experiences with our parents and false advertising.  

I work in retail after graduating from a college and I'm so thankful for my amazing education.  Am I complaining?  I'm grateful for my job.    Is it my dream job?  No, but I'll live with it.  Do I think I deserve more?  Maybe, but does that mean I'm selfish or narcissistic?  Not necessarily.  I think that after receiving my education I do deserve something that requires skills.  All my job requires of me is that I'm on time, I can communicate in English decently, and I can do some physical labor.  Is it so wrong that we, in our generation, want something more than that?  If that makes me selfish, then by all means, call me selfish.  But if that makes me want more for myself, for my hard work, for my education, then I'm just someone who's being affected by the false hopes of college degrees.

Lou Nicastro
Lou Nicastro

I'm sure your employer would love to see this

Deep Pandya
Deep Pandya

The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that's now 65 or older, according to the National Institutes of Health, well its all technological boon or bane whatever the way we see it, its the reality

DG
DG

@quiroga There are loads and loads of people who are extremely entitled, who grew up being hit by their parents.

It's got nothing to do with properly raising children ... it's got to do with parents who don't have the skills, primarily leadership skills, to raise children properly (small wonder considering most parents are in their 20s, themselves still youth) so they resort to force whenever they can't cope. Children do learn to avoid whatever causes them to be hit. But they learn other things too. They learn that authority is an arbitrary exercise of physical power, rather than stewardship and leadership.


Entitlement comes from something else altogether; whether a child is hit or not, he can still have the same sense of entitlement and there is no shortage of children from homes where they were hit, who have severe entitlement problems. Entitlement comes from bribing children, and bribery occurs for the same reasons violence does: the parents lack the skills for a different solution. Some bribe, some hit, most do both, and the results are all around you ...

R-U-SERIOUS
R-U-SERIOUS

@Ap1719 This goes without saying, or it should. None of the Generations are 100% good or bad, there are always exceptions to the rule. However, we have to be concerned about what the majority of them does. Therein lies the problem.

MC
MC

That's not entirely true, I kept reading but any real engagement drained out of me.

jazzman747
jazzman747

@DerekArmstrong Regardless of how positive or negative the article is, it's still a bit insulting that they're trying to generalize such a diverse group of people. There is no statistic or study that will be able to gauge our abilities to cope with the world or even pin down any universal characteristics. We come from a wide range of backgrounds from all over the world; the only two things we are guaranteed to have in common are that we're human, and that we were born within 20 years of each other. Beyond that, you can't identify the individual traits of a demographic; that would be ironic (and just a bit prejudiced ;)

SethWright
SethWright

@Shea Cotton I so love this.. perfectly captures everything I just wrote in my comment but more concise.

AriannaAguilar
AriannaAguilar

@rf091 I don't think you are selfish. I think you are ridiculously generous to be grateful that someone is allowing you to make tons of money for them while you barely even get a fraction of the value of your labor. 

jlord37
jlord37

I suppose you're from the" time out" school of dicisipline. See how well that works.


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