Celebrating the positives of millennials, or any age group, is a good thing. However, are Americans creating harmful age-based divisions? Part of self-sufficiency means being yourself and avoiding age-based labels that lead to decreased cooperation and less productivity.
The utility of age range labels
People like labels, though I think we all know they can be both useful and harmful. Americans are particularly adept at labeling, and our generational terminology is exhibit number one for this observation. What have generation X and Y contributed to society? Are the baby boomers to blame for the difficult plight of many millennials? As if we didn’t have enough division with our hyper-partisan political parties, we feel the need to create age-based categories to explain our current socioeconomic and political situations.
When generational labels are used to celebrate a generation’s achievements, they can seem harmless and perhaps useful. When the labels serve to blame and denigrate, they are divisive and regressive and much too common.
Ultimately, researchers find the scientific usefulness of age labels to be tenuous at best. For example, in reference to generation differences, Reaves and Oh have this to state in their conclusions:
“The gross generalizations based on weak survey research and the speculations of profit-oriented consultants should be treated with extreme caution…”
Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology: A Project of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology Generational Differences pg.302
Millenials, and Boomers, and Gen Xers
Generational labels can be harmless. However, is the trend toward blaming and generation shaming worth the effort of naming, and defining, every generation? After all, isn’t it more productive to place us all in a group called Americans, or even citizens of the world?
Diversity is to be rejoiced and age differences are an inherent part of life. However, a nation’s citizen’s need at least some shared characteristics and values to foster a “were all in it together” type of environment. Maybe all the age-based labels aren’t worth the trouble it takes to define and characterize them.
So, what is the age range for millennials? I say who cares? I’m betting all those lions, and tigers, and bears in the Land of Oz weren’t so scary after the cowardly lion got his courage. Maybe Americans can someday say the same about millennials, and boomers, and gen Xers. Any group, or individual, will find excuses when looking for them. Alternatively, we can move forward without using our age groups as a knife or a crutch.
In the meantime, perhaps laughing about our differences, instead of whining about them, is our best alternative.