I recently discovered something new about myself. It was shocking, terrifying and totally unexpected. I discovered that, even though I was born in 1985, I am in fact a millennial.
My mind was blown. I felt like one of those people you read about/see on a Lifetime movie whose “mom” and “dad” inform her that she was actually kidnapped as a baby and they are not her biological parents. My whole life has been a lie.
Aren’t millennials supposed to be 19-year-olds who think they are entitled to being CEOs straight out of college, have forearm tattoos and 27 photo editing apps? I’m almost 30. I still have a landline phone. Twitter didn’t even exist when I was in college, people!
And then I realized my arguably dramatic, self-centered response to this otherwise trivial finding is just part of the reason I am, in fact, a millennial.
After I came to terms with my rank in the demographic cohorts, I decided it was time for some introspective work. My day job at CollegeFashionista is solely focused on targeting and engaging with the millennial demographic. Whether it is our thousands of contributors or writing content to attract an audience of 18-23-year-olds, I am constantly asking myself the allusive question: “What do millennials wants?”
With this new-found sense of identity, I decided to turn the question inwards and write out the five things that I, as a millennial, really want. (Because being part of the “selfish” generation means you really care about what I think, right?)
1. Millennials want to be part of the conversation
Even me simply writing this article is proof of that I want to be part of something bigger than myself. The idea of storytelling and user-generated content is the bloodline of our generation. The concept of a “conversation” is no longer confined to two people sitting down over a cup of coffee and chitchatting.
The modern conversation is personal and anonymous all at the same time. There is an immense power to this belief that what I think/say/write/Tweet/Instagram/smoke signal will impact even just one person a thousand miles away. It doesn’t matter if the topic is as trivial as my favorite brunch spot or my take on overalls, millennials like knowing that their thoughts matter to someone while simultaneously hoping they matter to everyone.
2. Millennials want to redefine the word “selfish”
Millennials are often called the “selfish generation.” Growing up with three siblings, the word “selfish” had a pretty negative connotation. I eventually learned to share my Barbies, but past the age of 18, I guess I have taken umbrage with the word “selfish.”
Millenials are goal-orientated. I have always had things I wanted to accomplish and am a big proponent of Robert Frost’s “road less traveled” theory. I wanted to do things for myself and not ask permission to achieve those goals. I wanted to advance my education—so I went to law school. I wanted to empower people—so I poured my energy into my job at CollegeFashionista. I wanted to push my limits—so I booked an upcoming trip to trek Kilimanjaro. Sure, all those sentences started with “I want,” but I, along with my fellow millennials, don’t consider these things selfish so much as exercises in self-growth. At the end of the day, I want to be the best me possible and not apologize to anyone for that. And if that is selfish, well then, so be it.
3. Millennials want to replace their right hand with a cell phone
My cell phone is my drug of choice. I do everything on there. I work, order groceries, track my dog when she is with her walker and even meditate daily with the use of my cell phone. I talk to my best friend everyday without actually hearing her voice. I literally could not go to bed (sound machine app) or wake up in the morning (alarm clock) without my cell phone.
I am not an anomaly when it comes to this. A millennial is never truly alone because they always have their cell phone within arms reach if not physically in their hand. If a millennial can’t access it (and access it easily) from the 4 x 7 inch screen of their iPhone, it probably isn’t even on their radar of things they should care about. Mobile technology is not a luxury—it is a necessity to connect with millennials. So, if you want to engage with millennials, you know better make it mobile-friendly.
4. Millennials want to live in a visual world
I love pictures. From scouring souks in Morocco to the shoes I happen to be wearing on a given day, if I don’t take a picture, did it really happen? I recently sent a photo of my fridge well-stocked with veggies to my mom to let her know I was eating my greens.
Millennials are visual storytellers. And the story doesn’t have to be some grand odyssey or incredible adventure (although, if it is, even better). The daily story of a millennial often involves a delicious looking latte or selfie of sorts. We even speak in pictures with the introduction of every millennial’s second language—emoji. With millennials, the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousands words,” is not a theory—it’s a lifestyle.
5. Millennials want adventure and experience
Back in my creative writing days, my professors use to say, “Show, don’t tell.” While this was used to describe how to utilize words in poetry, I think this phrase also relates to the way I live my life. I don’t want to hear that the streets of Tokyo are bustling or that the donuts from this small bakery are the best in the city, I want to see it, taste it and feel it for myself.
Millennials are about both the journey and the destination, whether epic or everyday. We want everything to be a personal experience—from traveling to shopping to eating. Millennials might need to buy a shirt, but that is not what we really want. Millennials view shopping as more than just the transaction and want the afternoon in the store and interaction with the brand just as much as the garment itself.
To state it another way, a taco is not simply a taco if you have to track the food truck on Twitter to a somewhat questionable neighborhood and wait in an hour line before they sell out by 11 a.m…that you will simultaneously take a picture of on your phone to share on Instagram under a hashtag for all fellow taco-lovers to comment on.
We’re millennials, after all. It’s just what we do.