Why do we think Millennials like to share and not buy stuff? Blame these 2 pop historians.Historians in the News
If you have read anything about young people in recent years, you could be forgiven for believing that we are living through a cultural revolution, unprecedented in its destructiveness and self-regard. Millennials don’t just reject the music, art, or clothes of their parents; they also reject the older generation’s major sources of economic and spiritual well-being, like home ownership, cars, even sex. They’d rather pay to “access” music and movies than to buy them, and they don’t aspire to steady jobs (long live the gig economy!) or vacations. Their lifestyle choices are informed either by an admirable anti-consumerist streak or by a lazy reluctance to be weighed down by success and owning stuff. They’ve even killed the napkin industry.
None of this is true. The idea that these “trends” in consumption are driven primarily by cultural preferences, rather than a faltering economy and ever-rising costs of living, is difficult to believe, but that’s the prevailing narrative….
The media decided what millennial culture and values would be decades ago, before some of us were even born. William Strauss and Neil Howe, a popular-historian duo, coined the term “millennial” in 1987, to refer to the children who would graduate high school in the year 2000. And in their book Millennials Rising, published in 2000, they saw fit to describe the character of this newborn generation.
Millennials Rising gave us the myth that millennials are hard-wired to share, describing this generation as optimistic “team players” who “gravitate towards collective power.” The authors also laid the groundwork for a thousand think-pieces attacking “coddled youth” and “trigger warnings,” cautioning that millennials in their upbringing would be “the most watched-over generation in memory.” One reviewer prophesied that the millennial college experience would “give a new meaning to the word ‘overprotective.’” The same reviewer also worried that millennials “could be led astray by a demagogue or use technology in Orwellian ways.” It’s as though the moral outrage of the 2010s had been written in advance, before there were any facts to get wrong....
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