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The Simpsonian

How millennials are perceived in a digitally consumed world

Stephanie Woodruff/The Simpsonian

Stephanie Woodruff/The Simpsonian

by Madi Wilson, Features/Perspectives Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa — “I saw a comic strip of a couple kids in a classroom with a book and one of them saying, ‘How do you turn this thing on?’”

Will Roberts, a junior studying computer science at Simpson College, shared this example when asked how he thinks millennials, including himself, are perceived today.

“I don’t think millennials have any problems knowing how to use things that aren’t directly associated with technology,” Roberts said. “Technology makes things more efficient, but it doesn’t completely remove everything that doesn’t exist on a computer or phone from being used.”

The millennials generation, which applies to individuals who have reached adulthood during the 21st century, is often labeled as individuals who “grew up in an electronics-filled and increasingly online and socially networked world,” according to WhatIs.com.

Many millennials recognize how immersed they are in this tech-savvy, internet-consumed world but don’t like the idea of being labeled as just that.

“It’s not just my generation,” Simpson student Brooklyn Hunter said. “It is everyone. My generation just happened to be born into it and raised on it. If I see a table of people on their phones and not interacting, I immediately feel embarrassed and put mine down because I actually feel ashamed of how focused we are on the world around us via a phone and not actually living [life] in real time.”

Hunter admits to feeling divided on the subject of millennials and how they’re perceived.

“If someone calls me a millennial, I get offended because society has given it too many negative connotations,” she said. “But I am proud of my generation for having such a loud voice. Ignore the duck faces and constant selfies and pay attention to the fact that we are politically active and making changes to this country that have been years in the making.”

Apart from being comfortable and familiar with the internet life, millennials have several other labels that are both negative and positive, depending on who you talk to. From a baby boomer’s perspective, millennials are “very nice people who do not, as many criticisms go, seem likely to lead us down a hell hole of irresponsibility and neediness.”

Brian Steffen, a communication and media studies professor born in the baby-boom generation, believes that “every generation for at least 50 years has been described as the country going to hell in a hand basket: irresponsible, lazy, stupid.”

Steffen describes millennials as individuals who not only seem concerned about their futures, but who are also uncertain about their futures.

“There are a lot of challenges ahead of [millennials] in life that, frankly, I did not have, and I think that they have a right to be concerned about a lot of things they are concerned about.”

Whether people believe in the stereotypes that label millennials, no one can deny that technology has become a core aspect of life, no matter how often you use the tools available daily.

“I think that there are a lot of young people who meet those definitions of immature, easily distractible, but I don’t think that there are any more or less of them than there ever have been,” Steffen said. “I don’t think that the labels that are applied to the entire generation necessarily apply to all members or even most members of a generation.”

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