Why You Don’t Know GenY Like You Think You Do

Posted on June 9th, 2011


Who is GenY? Everyone wants to know. Like Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World — GenY seems to be a walking paradox that makes for great entertainment.

However, do we really have a clue who GenY really is? Everyday a new article comes out from “experts” who have GenY-Millennials-Twentysomethings-Emerging Adults-those fortunate to be born in the 80′s when George Michaels and Boy George reigned supreme (thankfully sparring us from having to buy tight cut-off jean shorts because we were five years old), completely figured out.

Do a phone survey of 143 twentysomethings and you’ve got yourself a theory and a platform.
Who is GenY?

As I wrote about in my rebuttal to David Brooks New York Times article “It’s Not About You”, there is a growing debate regarding who GenY is and who the older generation thinks GenY should be.

We think an entire GenY generation can be summed up with a two paragraph label like a box of Wheat Thins.


Why is it that stereotyping certain topics is completely taboo, yet stereotyping entire Generations is all the rage. As if GenY, Millennials, Twentysomethings are this mass amoeba completely identifiable if you can study just one piece. And whomever gains the most exposure, and yells the loudest, holds the power to define us all. (And the power to make the most money because they have the answer)

But GenY is not alone in our yearning to point and say, this is who they are. We do it to the Boomers too. And the Greatest Generation. But is this fair?

It possibly makes the most sense with the Greatest Generation as they rallied, bonded together, and were each independently, and collectively, effected through events like the Great Depression and WWII.

But what does GenY have as our defining events? The Great Recession and 9/11? The verdict is out on whether or not the Great Recession will shape and define our collective identity.  But in regards to 9/11, as I wrote in a previous article Amusing Ourselves to Death, “collectively we did not act upon the events of 9/11. No, we consumed 9/11.”

Did 9/11 do anything to actually change most our lives other than waiting in longer lines at the airport?


I wrote 31 Ways You Know You’re a GenY Twentysomething, which has become about a 100 ways now due to the amazing comments from fellow GenY-ers. Thus again showing me there is no one set list, no one-size-fits-all GenY characteristics.

Because we are not a list. We are individuals with unique talents and interests.

Some in GenY will act entitled, some won’t.

Some will have an IV of Technology hooked to their veins, some will like the feel of a good book.

Some will persevere through difficulty, some will take repeated naps.

Some will get married young, some will cast marriage off like a pair of worn tennis shoes.

Yes we can make generalizations, but let’s be careful not to treat generalizations as facts. Because honestly you don’t know – I don’t know, GenY as well as we think we do.

And honestly, I’m sick of us pretending like we do.


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