They are the most threatening and exciting generation since the baby boomers brought about social revolution, not because they're trying to take over the Establishment but because they're growing up without one. They got this way partly because, in the 1970s, people wanted to improve kids' chances of success by instilling self-esteem.
The Industrial Revolution made individuals far more powerful--they could move to a city, start a business, read and form organizations. It turns out that self-esteem is great for getting a job or hooking up at a bar but not so great for keeping a job or a relationship.
)Millennials consist, depending on whom you ask, of people born from 1980 to 2000.
At 80 million strong, they are the biggest age grouping in American history. Whereas in the 1950s families displayed a wedding photo, a school photo and maybe a military photo in their homes, the average middle-class American family today walks amid 85 pictures of themselves and their pets.
Each country's millennials are different, but because of globalization, social media, the exporting of Western culture and the speed of change, millennials worldwide are more similar to one another than to older generations within their nations. Millennials have come of age in the era of the quantified self, recording their daily steps on Fit Bit, their whereabouts every hour of every day on Place Me and their genetic data on 23 and Me.
To develop intellectually you've got to relate to older people, older things: 17-year-olds never grow up if they're just hanging around other 17-year-olds." Of all the objections to Obamacare, not a lot of people argued against parents' need to cover their kids' health insurance until they're 26.(MORE: I'm Not on Facebook and I Don't Regret It—Yet)Millennials are interacting all day but almost entirely through a screen.
You've seen them at bars, sitting next to one another and texting.
The idea of the teenager started in the 1920s; in 1910, only a tiny percentage of kids went to high school, so most people's social interactions were with adults in their family or in the workplace. It is anti-eloquence," says Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory, who wrote The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30).
Now that cell phones allow kids to socialize at every hour--they send and receive an average of 88 texts a day, according to Pew--they're living under the constant influence of their friends. "Never before in history have people been able to grow up and reach age 23 so dominated by peers.
"They're doing a behavior to reduce their anxiety," says Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University at Dominguez Hills and the author of i Disorder.
That constant search for a hit of dopamine ("Someone liked my status update! From 1966, when the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking were first administered, through the mid-1980s, creativity scores in children increased. Scores on tests of empathy similarly fell sharply, starting in 2000, likely because of both a lack of face-to-face time and higher degrees of narcissism.
Even in China, where family history is more important than any individual, the Internet, urbanization and the one-child policy have created a generation as overconfident and self-involved as the Western one. They have less civic engagement and lower political participation than any previous group.