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Jun 22 2020
Last week, a viral tweet revealed that Gen Z might not think much of Millennials. Posted by @local__celeb, the post shared: “i’m awake at 3 am and i just want everyone to know what gen z says about millennials on tiktok…..” followed by photographic evidence of Gen Z’s candid and not-too-complimentary feelings about Millennials. Comments included burns like, “they be 34 talking about ‘I’m a Hufflepuff’,” “I think that every generation can agree that millennials were a mistake,” and “What about the ones that name their kids after video game characters.” There were also many “adulting” and wine drinking references (not good ones). The tweet blew up, and has been shared almost 78K times and liked over 345K times to date. The comments were actually screenshots of the conversation responding to TikTok user Maya Lepa’s (@mayalepa) video, which declares, “Tired of Boomers, um, bunching Gen Z and Millennials together. Because I personally don’t want to be associated with people who still think that Harry Potter movies are a personality trait.” The video has been watched over 400K times, liked over 91K times, and now has almost 2000 comments.
In YPulse’s Generational Blame Game trend report, published in January of this year, we dug into generational strife and resentment, asking young people their honest feelings about the generations that preceded them—and their own generations as well. As part of this research, we explored how they view Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z respectively. Respondents were asked to choose the top characteristics or personality traits that come to mind when thinking about people from each individual generation, picking from a list of 26 descriptive words that covered political views, personality, and mental state. The top words chosen for each group revealed an enormous amount about not only how Gen Z and Millennials feel about Boomers (it’s not pretty) but also how they feel about one another. In the wake of that viral tweet, we’re sharing exactly what the younger generation told us they think about Millennials:
Gen Z Thinks Millennials Are…
Ok, so the top descriptor Gen Zs chose to describe Millennials was “liberal”—not so bad. (At least not in Millennials’ eyes, as the generation is more likely to identify as liberal than conservative.) But after that the list gets more dicey. The second most-picked descriptor for Millennials is “lazy,” which nearly three in ten Gen Z picked for Millennials. Though “hard-working” also made the top ten ranking, Gen Z is more likely to think Millennials are the opposite. Over a quarter of Gen Z also feel the older generation is “moody”—which puts those TikTok comments about Millennial wining and whining into context.
But we’re going to note here that Gen Z is just as tough, when describing their own generation: the top descriptors chosen by 13-18-year-olds to describe Gen Z were: “anxiety-ridden,” “lost,” “moody,” “social,” and “self-involved.” These choices speak to the generations’ openness about mental health, and their self-professed reliance on social media. That said, only half of Gen Z says they identify with the values of the Gen Z generation, and they’re also the most likely to say that they don’t identify with any generation—meaning that when they chose these descriptors, many weren’t thinking of themselves.
Of course, Millennials have their own thoughts about Gen Z as well. When we asked 19-37-year-olds to choose descriptors for the younger gen, the top words chosen were a mix of positives and negatives:
Millennials Think Gen Z Is…
Millennials’ top-picked descriptors of Gen Z are slightly more forgiving: social, and open-minded are in the top three. That said, the top five includes “self-involved,” “lazy,” and “lost.” Half of Millennials also agreed with the statement “I don’t understand younger generations,” which means that many of them are just as mystified by Gen Z’s ways as brands seem to be.
Want to know what Millennials think about their own generation? They have a pretty positive view, with “open-minded,” “liberal,” “anxiety-ridden,” “social,” and “hard-working” the top descriptors that Millennial respondents picked when thinking of Millennials. Perhaps they are compensating for the way other generations feel about them. But at the same time, many Millennials agree with the viral TikTok comments made about them, and were even laughing along. Vice’s headline about the viral post reads “Gen Z Is Coming for Millennials and We Deserve It,” and BuzzFeed’s similarly declares, “Gen Z Is Making Fun Of Millennials And Honestly We Deserve It.”
So, what have we learned? Well, Gen Z does not like being “bunched in” with Millennials—this generation has their own distinct values and views, and they don’t necessarily agree with their predecessor’s choices. On top of that Millennials are now old enough that the younger generation is making fun of them—a lovely right of passage that should remind brands that Millennials are no longer teens, they’re grownups. (Even if they do still love Harry Potter.) And finally, generational strife is a long tradition that won’t be going away anytime soon: The majority of both Gen Z and Millennials agree with the statement “My generation is treated unfairly by other generations.”
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