9 Differences Between Older Millennials & Younger Millennials
If you're reading this, there's a strong chance you (like me) are a millennial, though you may not identify with all of the generational traits depending on your age. Differences between older millennials and younger millennials run the gamut from how old you were when you first got online, or got a cellphone, to your experiences entering the workforce. While most people define millennials as those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, the Center for Generational Kinetics claims millennials are actually people born between 1977 and 1995.
If 1977 sounds early to you, the term "Xennial" has been trending to describe a micro-generation of people who feel like they're neither members of Generation X nor the millennial generation.
"Our meager but meaningful cultural touchstones were often deemed unprofitable enough to be ignored," Sarah Stankorb writes on Good.is. "Consider Empire Records, which failed in the box office, but developed a cult following in our micro-gen. Or the amazing but low-rated My So-Called Life — a show I hand-wrote letters petitioning ABC to save — which lent us our only other recent moniker, Generation Catalano, after Jared Leto’s troubled dreamboat character."
If you didn't know Claire Danes as surly Angela Chase in My So-Called Life, and you've never heard of Jordan Catalano, you are definitely a younger millennial. Here are some other ways older and younger millennials are totally different.
1. Growing Up
If you're an older millennial like me, you probably spent a lot of your childhood playing outside, totally unsupervised, with your friends. Bike helmets weren't a thing, you stopped riding in a car seat when you were a toddler, and if you wanted to find a friend, you called them on your landline telephone, or just went to their house and knocked on the door. Older millennials are truly the last group of kids who will ever have the dual experience of coming of age before and after the internet.
Older millennials probably grew up as the most unsupervised group of kids in history. Maybe both of your parents worked, or your parents were divorced so you and your siblings stayed home alone after school. You rode your bike places by yourself — with no way for anyone to get in touch with you — and you found other kids by locating the pile of bikes in someone's front yard. I'm pretty sure letting a kid ride their bike alone today, sans helmet, would get parents into trouble.
If you're a younger millennial, and you never experienced the freedom of being completely disconnected from technology; it was kind of like living in the movie E.T. (And, if you haven't see that, you need to watch it immediately.)
2. The Internet
If you're a younger millennial, the internet might be something you can't remember living without, but for older millennials, this newfangled phenomenon was pretty exciting when it first debuted.
By the late '90s, the internet was becoming mainstream, but back in the day, your internet connection — aka, dial-up — was made possible by your phone line, which created a new problem — you couldn't be online and on the phone at the same time.
Dial-up was clunky AF, and it took forever to load a web page, or send an email, which meant you likely tied up your phone line for a long, long time. While this sounds super frustrating, older millennials didn't know any differently because it was all we knew. Dial-up was the newest technology, and we didn't know it was slow because fast didn't happen in the form of broadband until the end of the '90s or early 2000s, depending on where you lived.
3. The Recession
Younger millennials and older millennials had a completely different experience of the 2008 recession. People who are now in their 30s were likely already working when the economy took a dive into the toilet.
Staffs were cut all over the country, my boyfriend at the time was laid off and rehired by the same newspaper multiple times, and some people were even made to take "furlough days" — unpaid days off so the company could save money. Half of my staff was let go, and suddenly I was doing three or four jobs and only getting paid for one. But I was one of the lucky ones who still had a job.
For younger millennials still in school, or just entering the workforce, navigating the new normal post-2008 disrupted their world view. Older millennials "were raised and educated during a period in which we were promised that if we followed the rules in certain ways, there would be gainful employment waiting for us in our early or mid-20s — which there often was," journalist Jesse Singal writes for CNN. Younger millennials grew up thinking similarly, but the world after the recession was fundamentally different — this employment ceased to exist in the same way.
In my 20s, I was dating a guy who couldn't wait to show me this great new thing he'd discovered. It was called Netflix, he told me excitedly, and it sent you DVDs in the mail. You watched the movie, sent it back, and Netflix sent you another one. If you're a younger millennial, you might not remember when Netflix only did mail-order DVDs.
As far as streaming goes, I definitely identify with younger millennials. I gave away my television in a breakup six years ago, and I never bought another one. I stream everything, and I haven't watched a commercial in years. Streaming has given many older shows a new life. In fact, it's the entire reason I've even seen Gilmore Girls (all seven seasons, four times this year), and the reason the show was able to come back as a limited series, something the cast never anticipated was possible — because no one had heard of streaming when the show went off the air.
While I detest paper clutter from things like newspapers and mail, I love books. I love the way they smell. I love holding them, and I love reading them. I know they take up more space when I travel, but for me there is no substitute for a physical book.
And, according to the Center for Generational Kinetics, all millennials are out-reading previous generations, though younger millennials trend toward e-readers and apps while older millennials still prefer an actual book.
6. Pop Culture
Older millennials grew up with very different pop culture touchstones than younger millennials. When I was growing up, it was all about Saved by The Bell, Sweet Valley High, The Baby-Sitter's Club, My So-Called Life, grunge music, and Empire Records. For younger millennials it was Harry Potter, Twilight, Veronica Mars, Lizzie McGuire, Mean Girls, Britney Spears, and boy bands.
While goth-grunge girls and Britney Spears fans may be from the same generation, a few years can feel like a lifetime for pop culture.
7. Social Media
If you're not on social media these days, it feels like you're ostracized from the human race. For younger millennials, it might feel like social media has always existed and that documenting life on social is totally normal. Personally, I can't even imagine how anyone gets through high school with their lives played out on Facebook or Instagram, but they seem to do it.
As an older millennial, I use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pretty regularly. I have Snapchat, but I really don't get it. While older millennials like me are most likely to use Facebook, younger millennials are deleting it in favor of other social media apps like Snapchat.
Technology can be pretty boss. I love doing everything from my phone. I get food delivered, order a car, pay my bills, check my email, read news, take pictures, and set my alarm. I also remember a time when none of this existed. In college, I worked at a bar with a pay phone. If someone was too drunk to drive, we had to call them a cab (another thing that is quickly becoming obsolete, thanks to ride-sharing services).
While some of the things your cellphone can do, like track you everywhere you go, can be kind of creepy, I would not want to go back to the pay-phone days. For younger millennials, technology is a given, and having to remember phone numbers or put a quarter into a sticky, dirty phone on a street corner seems crazy.
Younger millennials use online dating apps. A lot. In all my previous relationships, I met my partner at either work or school, but now, since I work from home and I'm not in school, I have given online dating apps a try. I went on exactly one Tinder date, and it was awful.
I do know many people who have had successful relationships with people they have met online, but I'm really not into it — and neither are other people on my end of the generational spectrum. If you're a younger millennial, however, you likely have a few online dating apps on your phone, and you probably go on quite a few dates this way. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials ages 18-24 are doing the most dating on apps than any other age group.
Before Sept. 11, 2001, traveling was pretty different. You didn't need a passport to go to Canada or Mexico, you could walk your friends or family to the gate at the airport, not get pat down or have to go through metal detectors, and you could bring pretty much anything on the plane.
Younger millennials will, unfortunately, never know a time when going to the airport was not a stressful experience, and crossing borders in North America without a passport was something we did on the regular for weekends.