I do a lot of conference organizing and I get heat from some of my friends in the industry for doing the ever-so-trendy Millennial sessions.
They’re a waste of time,” they’ll say, or, “they have no money.” Then I’ll show up at the event and guess which session has the most people in it?
But help is on the way for gaming professionals who are tired of being told how to deal with Millennials: Millennials don’t exist, and that’s straight from 32-year-old Adam Conover, host of TruTV’s Adam Ruins Everything, which is very popular with, you guessed it.
“Millennials don’t exist” is the title of a speech Conover gave at Deep Shift, a Millennials marketing conference. He started out by saying there’s nothing older than generational divides. “’Generations’ are usually just old people talking smack about young people,” he said.
He then went back to the Greeks, quoting Hesiod, but I like this one which was attributed to Socrates by Plato: “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
Many centuries later, Ernest Fladell, in a cover story for Life magazine in 1968 called “The Generation Gap,” wrote: “Even as I said it, I knew the phase, ‘to make a living,’ could have absolutely no meaning to these children of the affluent society.”
Newsweek wrote a cover story in 1985 called “The Video Generation,” which opined that the new generation would be self-obsessed because they were filming themselves on their video devices.
In the 1990s, Time wrote a cover story called, “20 Somethings: Laid-back, late blooming or just lost?” Time’s 2013 generational cover was called, “The Me, Me, Me generation,” which, Conover rightly noted, was a rip-off of Tom Wolfe’s famous 1976 New York Magazine cover story, “The Me Decade.” The 2013 cover inspired some major pushback from the kids, who are, after-all, pretty good with photoshop.
And then there are the stereotypes, such as, “Millennials are entitled.” Some 61 percent of college seniors held internships last year and nearly half were unpaid. “Rosie the Riveter wasn’t doing it because she loved riveting,” said Conover, “she was doing it for the cold, hard cash, c’mon.”
Or, “Millennials are narcissists.” One Pew Research survey of adults aged 18-29 found being a good parent and having a successful marriage ranked one and two in terms of priorities, with becoming famous last at one percent, leading more and more researchers to conclude that this generation follows the same patterns of previous generations as it relates to narcissism. “Younger people are more narcissistic,” said Conover,” but they become less narcissistic as they age and crankier about younger people being narcissistic.”
“Millennials are always on their phones and it’s ruining their lives,” is another received bit of wisdomre. Millennials. “It’s true, Millennials are on their phones a lot but so are moms and dads…everyone is on their phone.” He cited a famous Douglas Adams quote: “I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies: 1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. 2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. 3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”
“I’m 32, we’ll see what I hate in three years,” said Conover. “I barely got on board with Snapchat, but I’m there now.”
Conover did offer some helpful hints. “Social media is just new media; if you treat it like it’s something weird or different, that’s when mistakes happen.” By way of example, he showed a Clinton campaign tweet: “How does your student loan debt make you feel? Tell us in three emojis or less.”
Some things are unique to Millennials and they are worth paying attention to. Millennials are the most diverse generation ever (42 percent are non-white; 15 percent are first-generation immigrants) and they have been dealt a bad hand; they earn less than their peers did before the recession and they experience 60 percent lower wage growth. They are also the most educated generation to date (and the most indebted). 70 percent are already saving for retirement.
“Young people don’t want you to talk to them in their language,” concluded Conover. “They just want to be treated like intelligent people who are worthy of respect.”