Exaggerated stereotypes about millennials and boomers distract from bridging the gap

As a millennial, it can be tough to go to any family gathering and even glance at your cell phone without being made fun of by someone from an older generation. We’ve all heard the phrases before about “kids today” and how different everything was “back in my day.” Much of that revolves around our reliance on technology, and sometimes, on our parents’ and grandparents’ unwillingness to adapt to change. But both sides make valid arguments.

As millennials, many of us grew up with technology. We got our first cell phones as tweens, and maybe even our first computers before that. Now, it’s not uncommon to see young parents letting their children play with iPads to keep them entertained. We keep in touch with friends, plan events, and share important moments in our life through social media – this is something that older generations didn’t have growing up. There’s sometimes a misconception among older generations that because millennials interact so frequently via Facebook and Snapchat, that they don’t engage in or enjoy face-to-face interaction. However, for millennials, social media is not a replacement for seeing friends so much as it occurs in addition to it. Social media allows us to keep in touch with a large number of our friends all at once, including friends that we wouldn’t regularly see. Arguably, millennials could be considered more social than previous generations.

In addition to using technology for social purposes, millennials rely on technology for academic use because it is now an expectation. While the Internet provides an endless variety of research journals and scholarly articles, it is also the way in which universities and colleges interact with their students. From assignment submissions, to course selection,to financial documentation, academic institutions are operating largely online. This is a major change since older generations have attended school.

This is not to say that older generations are completely out of touch. Most members of older generations possess the same technology that millennials have – laptops, smartphones and tablets. The intergenerational conflict exists in the way that millennials and older generations use technology. Younger generations turn more intrinsically to devices as extensions of themselves, while older generations normally approach their devices as tools –as a means to an end, instead of an end in itself.

But it’s important to keep in mind that millennials were born and raised in a generation where technology was usually readily available. Older generations were raised without personalized devices, and rather than having the chance to adapt to it through youth, they had to learn a lot of things as adults. Furthermore, millennials were born into a period of online conversion: from CDs to iTunes, VHS to DVD to Netflix, and so on. Meanwhile, our parents and grandparents were born during a time of physical conver- sion: vinyl to cassettes to CDs, and live television to Betamax to VHS.

Intergenerational differences and conflicting views are not new to millennials and boomers. And before smugly jumping to quick assumptions and stereotypes, just remember: at one point, we were all youth who confounded our elders, and decades later, we’ll all be looking back with bewilderment at the new generations.

Featured photo courtesy of Sabine Osmann-Deyman

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