By Bhawna Sharma
Millennials. Yes, the generation born between the 1980s and 1990s that’s been hurled with a bunch of rather discouraging tropes, the most common being entitled, narcissistic, and lazy. But as a twenty-year-old-millennial myself, I beg to differ. Not only are these stereotypes unfounded, but they’re also out of touch with the times we now live in. Let’s walk through some of the most cliched accusations and deconstruct them one at a time:
We’re ambitious and worried (for good reasons), not entitled
We’re frequently described as the generation that expects success to be served on a silver plate without putting in the hard work, and perhaps there is a tinge of truth to that given how the insane high-speed world of internet access makes us want to tick off accomplishments right away. Also, having so many more opportunities than the generation before, however, makes us have higher expectations of ourselves, and this does not necessarily translate to being ‘entitled’. A 2015 survey conducted by Linkedin among 9,200 millennials in 10 countries, including Singapore, found that more than 30% of millennials aspire to achieve ambitious goals such as buying a second home and setting up their own business.
We’ve also been dubbed as the entitled generation that complains instead of facing struggles head-on. What older generations do not understand, however, is that most of our complaints are rooted in real anxieties. As the frosting on top of Singapore’s rapid economic success story, we have our own unique challenges to face, such as a highly competitive job market and rising costs of living, to name a few. In a telling report released by Deloitte last year, only 36% of millennials in mature markets, including Singapore, expected themselves to be financially better off than their parents, and only 31% happier. Even though we might not show it, we are worried about the future in our own ways.
Social media and different priorities don’t make us narcissistic
One of the first things millennials are associated with is their obsession with social media on their vanity hunt. While making everything about ourselves might scream ‘me, me, me’, we do look forward to things in life beyond just ourselves. When it comes to starting a family, for example, millennials are often grossly misinterpreted as selfishly placing their own well-being when they are at their prime age to start a family.
It’s not that most of us don’t want to marry and have children, it’s just that we have different priorities in life. Unlike baby boomers who could take solace in finding jobs that could last a lifetime, working millennials are constantly saving fires in an uncertain job market.
To put it crudely, how could we possible start of planning a family at the age of 25 when we are still struggling to settle our careers for a future family? Moreover, millennials who are parents might surprise you: A survey from HSBC last year found that Singapore’s millennial parents spend almost twice the global average on their children’s education, even at the expense of their own retirement planning. Millennials are not as narcissistic as they seem: even though we prioritise a work-life balance, we do wish to seek comfort in family and the larger community around us.
We’re far from lazy in today’s ultra-stressful world
I think this one infuriates me the most, because it completely ignores how hard millennials have to work in a rigorous education system that emphasises grades above all else. To top it off, Singaporean millennials happen to have one of the longest working-hours in the world. If that doesn’t convince you that we’re not lazy, maybe the statistics would: A survey conducted by GoDaddy in 2016 found that nearly three quarters of millennials in Singapore plan to be entrepreneurs within the next ten years, and more than 30% concurrently launched their own business while schooling, making them 16 times more likely to pursue entrepreneurship than Gen X students were.
In fact, a new breed of robust Singaporean millennials have persevered in turning their passion into their drive by exploiting the infrastructure of the modern world: 31 year-old mechanical engineering graduate Elshan Tang left a stable career to launch Zelos Watches, and successfully raised more than half a million dollars through Kickstarter for his business.
Every generation brings its own trials and tribulations. I’m not saying millennials are perfect human beings: thanks to social media, many of us struggle to find authentic, deep and meaningful friendships in real life. The high-speed world of internet has also programmed us to enjoy superficial gratification to the point where we now have apps specifically meant for dating or ordering meals without leaving home.
But notwithstanding these issues, I do believe we are highly misunderstood in the eyes of the older generation, who are reluctant to see through the changing socio-economic landscape millennials have to navigate.