Is the millennial just another urban stereotype?

The term millennial, in its noun form, describes those who reached young adulthood around the year 2000. In other words, these are men and women presently in the age group of 17-35.

It is easy to imagine and spot such individuals in our surroundings. They are generally cool, easygoing and innovative. Unfortunately, they also constitute the largest number of foot soldiers in the “terror industry.”

Millennials of the neighborhood kind are usually at ease with their lives. They distinguish themselves by their use of smartphones and are constantly connected to their peers, maybe even cousins. For baby boomers – who have now been outnumbered by the millennial population in the US – this may be perceived as anti-social behavior.

One school of thought has it that the love for gadgets among millennials has actually calmed them down. At the cost of sounding unscientific, one can suggest that restricted physical activities and social life may even have helped curtail aggressive behavior. A few generations ago, this age group was mostly associated with rowdy behavior, street crime and unfathomable rebellion.

May be they have found more avenues to express themselves or just don’t feel the need to continuously grapple with the system. Basically, if you leave the “terror tribe” aside, then this group could be called largely at ease with their surroundings.

The adjective

Yet it is the very term, and the way it is applied, that suggests a stereotype and probably also an oxymoron. The word, which in its adjective form means a thousand years, is too loosely used to describe human beings in their 20s and the 30s.

The trouble is not so much with an age group being clubbed together for the purpose of marketing or being used as a vote bank, the problem is with gross generalizations and the way they are sold as gospel truth

Ehtesham Shahid

The most obvious evidence is the way in which this group is being targeted by marketers. What makes the millennials tick? That’s the premise on which advertising campaigns are designed and products sold, with great results of course. Closer to elections, strategists routinely churn out coded messages for politicians to deliver with the objective to reach the millennial population directly.

In advertising, just as in so many other areas, it is the number that counts. For instance, millennials make up 25 percent of the US population and, almost by default, make 21 percent of discretionary purchases. Numerous studies have led to targeted millennial marketing and the data is widely available for any end-user.

One such study suggests that discretionary purchases among millennials are estimated to be over a trillion dollars in direct buying power and can have a huge influence on older generations. Not surprisingly, the study says 46 percent of millennials reported having more than 200 Facebook friends, which opens up the social media Pandora’s box.

Diverse group

The trouble is not so much with an age group being clubbed together for the purpose of marketing or being used as a vote bank, the problem is with gross generalizations and the way they are sold as gospel truth. It seems we have just chosen to paint them all with the same brush because we are too lazy to understand their differences.

We are far too busy in our lives to think before we apply such terms judiciously. When we speak of millennials, do we take into account the millions of those in the 20-30 age groups living in far flung areas? The reality may be entirely different there and it is not the access to technology but the lack of that would probably define their living.

There are millions of millennials around the world who have been left behind on the social ladder and have hardly witnessed economic progress. We cannot expect the same level of entrepreneurship from a rural millennial without access to resources. If they don’t have the same opportunity, they cannot provide the same results.
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Ehtesham Shahid is Managing Editor at Al Arabiya English. For close to two decades he has worked as editor, correspondent, and business writer for leading publications, news wires and research organizations in India and the Gulf region. He loves to occasionally dabble with teaching and is collecting material for a book on unique tales of rural conflict and transformation from around the world. His twitter handle is @e2sham.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:49 - GMT 06:49
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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