We are not Millennials. Probably. We get called Millennials, but we’re more likely Generation Z, which sounds like the last generation before the end of the world. Generational categories are hard to deny—as a group, we have a fundamentally different worldview than our grandparents did at our age—but they’re complicated. The edges are fuzzy. Experts disagree on the exact dates within which each generation is born, but it’s generally accepted that Millennials were born sometime between the early eighties and the mid-nineties and Generation Z was born sometime between the mid-nineties and the early two-thousands. Millennials, by definition, came of age around the turn of the millennium, when most of us were three or two or just being born. Alas. We are not the avocado toast generation. We’re Gen Tech, the iGeneration (yikes), Net Gen, Gen Wii (presumably coined by the oldest person alive), Digital Natives, Plurals. And of course, like every generation once was, we are The Worst. We’re the Tide Pod Generation, the Snapchat Generation, the Meme Generation. The Snowflake Generation.
And we’re the Mass Shooting Generation, according to some students from Stoneman Douglas. We’re the Homeland Generation, defined by post-9/11 anxiety. We’re the generation formed by the Great Recession, by the War on Terror, by gun violence, by unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression. According to Signa’s U.S. Loneliness Index, we’re the loneliest generation. We’re distrustful of the government and disillusioned by the economy. We are the most digitally exposed generation, recreating and advertising ourselves in zeros and ones. We are documentarians in strange new ways. We are noticing difference, and we are normalizing difference. We will not fit into the world as it is; we are the most ethnically diverse generation, the most sexually fluid. According to research firm 747 insights, we form the most racially diverse friend groups and we are the least likely to care who other people marry. We know that brave members of the generations before us fought hard to secure civil rights for marginalized groups, and as a whole, we recognize more of those rights. But we still hate people; we’re flawed.
And okay, we’ll admit it, some of us want safe spaces—as vague as the term is. Is that what this snowflake stuff is about? We want safe spaces. We know that the world is not safe, that for many of us, life is a matrix of violence. We know that safety should not be controversial, that trauma should not be a rite of passage on the way to adulthood. We know that empathy is not coddling. Have our critics even stopped to consider who invented safe spaces, who safe spaces are designed for? Answer: the perpetually unsafe.
We know that the concept of “we” is itself unsteady. We disagree constantly. We are not perfect, and we are not a monolith. Sometimes we are explosive in our idiocy, because we are, after all, young. We are on the edge of the world, and we are moving too fast for anyone else to catch up. Here’s to us. To everyone else: good luck finding a name that sticks.