2165: Millennials

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Ironically, I've been having these same arguments for at least a decade now. I thought we would have moved on by now, but somehow the snide complaints about millennials continue.
Title text: Ironically, I've been having these same arguments for at least a decade now. I thought we would have moved on by now, but somehow the snide complaints about millennials continue.


According to the definitive chronology of generations, millennials are born between 1982 and 1999. Those born in 1982 reached adulthood (18 years) in 2000. As of writing of this comic (mid 2019), this is about 20 years ago. When the term became widespread around 2012, replacing the previous term "Generation Y", the average millennial was 21 years old, so the image was popularized of millennials as "college kids". The parlance of the word in everyday usage seems to be expanding so that it now includes not just those that were originally Gen Y, but also some younger Gen Xers, as well as current teens and college kids (many of whom are actually Gen Z/Generation 💅).

In this strip, White Hat expresses a sentiment of prejudice against millennials, claiming they aren’t prepared for “the real world.” This is a sentiment that sometimes can be found among those of older generations. However, Cueball refutes this by saying that many millennials have been adults for almost 20 years, and those that had kids early on are taking them to college. This is due to another common misunderstanding, where the definition of “millennial” has changed so much, and expanded so often, that nobody really knows what it means anymore.

White Hat refuses to accept this, saying millennials are the college kids, to which Cueball says that maybe White Hat is the one not growing up and accepting that millennials are, in fact, adults. The title text builds on this, complaining that Randall has been having these discussions for over a decade.

The title text begins with the word "ironically," for what appears to be an entirely sincere complaint, possibly in reference to Alanis Morissette's pop song "Ironic," which is often said to be a generation-defining hit among millennials, and which was widely criticized for misusing the word. Alternatively, Randall may simply be using "ironically" to mean "strangely".

White Hat has been similarly confused by what ages different generations are in 973: MTV Generation.


[White Hat and Cueball facing each other.]
White Hat: I'm just saying–
White Hat: All these millennials will be in for a shock when they have to grow up and enter the real world.
[Zoom in on Cueball's head and upper body.]
Cueball: Except...
Cueball: "Millennials" started reaching adulthood about 20 years ago.
[Zoom out to full view of White Hat and Cueball facing each other in a frameless panel.]
Cueball: Which means that some millennials can't respond to your criticism because they're busy taking their kids to check out colleges.
[White Hat and Cueball facing each other.]
White Hat: But ...no, millennials are college kids!
Cueball: Maybe they're not the ones failing to grow and change over time here.

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I never understand the american obsession with naming generations, and it deeply confuses me. --Lupo (talk) 14:22, 19 June 2019 (UTC)

You're calling it an American obsession, but I've never been obsessed with it myself. Instead, I suspect it's an American media obsession, and I'd prefer not to be associated with them. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 14:46, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
Indeed, the idea of naming generations is primarily a media phenomenon, and none of the generation names more recent than the Baby Boomers have taken hold as strongly as "Baby Boomers" did. -- 15:25, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
There are a couple different things that create the obsession. First is a 19th century and early 20th century European sociological theory. The notion of a particular cohort being different from others really became popular after the First World War when people started talking about the Lost Generation (also mostly a European thing). In that case it referred to a cohort which really had gone through some very unique experiences (a huge chunk of the world's population of a certain age died either as a result of the First World War (which included a few genocides) or from the influenza pandemic and all sorts of trauma was experienced by the survivors). This in turn inspired a famous theory that there is a grand cyclical pattern to generations in American history. Combine the (pretty obvious) theory that living through a major war or disease pandemic will affect a generation (see also the post-WWII baby boom) with the (thoroughly-discredited-but-still-popular-in-America) idea of generational cycles and you end up with an ongoing tendency to name, define, and redefine the boundaries of distinct "generations" and to describe them will all sorts of sweeping generalizations. 18:33, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
Sociology class touched on named generations mostly as a way to talk about history in periods of time a bit larger than a decade. The class that really went into it and all the stereotypes and quirks was Marketing.EmuSam (talk) 05:28, 21 June 2019 (UTC)

This is very similar to comic https://xkcd.com/973/ in which White Hat criticizes a different generation. 15:03, 19 June 2019 (UTC)

I was under the impression that 'millenials' were those born in the 90s, in between gen y and gen z. I think there is a 'slight' trend that my generation has trouble 'growing up' even as adults. Many friends, if they haven't had kids they might still be living at home. Some even have kids and are still living with their parents. Myself, I don't see why a family structure couldn't work that way and still be healthy, I think the 'issue' comes from the older generations trying to keep the societal norms steady, and in the 1950s, when a boy turned 18 he became a 'man' and was promptly kicked out of the house, like a bird from a nest, or something like that... 15:05, 19 June 2019 (UTC) Sam

Yes. Those that were born millennials were born in the '90s, but most millennials were recruited from other generations. 16:31, 19 June 2019 (UTC)

In fairness to White Hat, one might plausibly assume from the word "millennial" that it was meant to refer to people born around the turn of the millennium, or people born in the current millennium which is still fairly new as millennia go. It's not obvious that a person born 18 or 19 years before the turn of the millennium is supposed to be a millennial, while a person born 1 year before or 1 year after the turn of the millennium isn't. -- 15:25, 19 June 2019 (UTC)

As I understand it, the term was intended to refer to the generation that would enter adulthood around the beginning of the 21st century, rather than those born in it. But it's certainly easy to assume differently, if you don't remember that the term was around for more than a decade before the turn of the millenium (Wikipedia says it was coinced in 1987).Barmar (talk) 19:28, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
It is meant to refer to everybody that was a teenager in millenial decade from 2000 to 2010, so from 19 years before 2000, to 13 years before 2010.. It is defined by their shared childhood/young adulthood. 12:34, 20 June 2019 (UTC)

The title text begins with the word Ironically, but is the statement really ironic? I think a more appropriate word might have been Frustratingly instead, but I wonder if his choice of words means something as well. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 15:30, 19 June 2019 (UTC)

Just to continue this thought, while Alanis Morissette is not a millennial herself, her song Ironic was released in 1995, just as the earliest millennials were about to enter their teen years. Not sure it means anything, but perhaps millennials have a part in perpetuating the misunderstanding of this word. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 15:37, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
In all fairness, in 1995, the only millennials were still babies. Those in their teens at the time wouldn't become millennials until much more recently. 16:34, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
What? The current explanation states that the first millennials were born in 1982, making them 13 in 1995. Are you having the same problem as White Hat? Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 16:51, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
That's the CURRENT definition, not the original one. If the definition hasn't changed, then where did Gen Y go? When were they born? EDIT: Actually, I was mistaken, because a more recent definition has people born as early as 1980 defined as millennials. If you think I'm having the same problem as White Had, read what I wrote below. 16:55, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
Millennial = Generation Y. I also remember being referred to as Gen Y, but at some point in the 2000s(?) the Millennial term replaced Gen Y. According to wiki, they're the same thing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennials 12:38, 20 June 2019 (UTC)
Along those same lines (or perhaps perpendicular to them), I don't consider myself a Baby Boomer, despite my birth date. Ok, now that we've straightened that out, what about Randall's choice of Ironically in the title text? Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 17:06, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
I'm not that worried about people misusing the word, "ironic," as it's prety difficult to define any other way than example. 17:08, 19 June 2019 (UTC)
It's ironic that the one word that could perfectly describe the concept of irony is so misunderstood. -boB (talk) 16:36, 20 June 2019 (UTC)
And isn't it ironic that the song "Ironic" mentioned above doesn't list real examples of ironic situations, but rather just coincidences and tidbits? (Answer: No, it isn't) -boB (talk) 16:42, 20 June 2019 (UTC)
I think the irony might be drawn from Randall having spent 20 years complaining about people not growing and changing, showing a lack of growth and change in himself. CJB42 (talk) 20:35, 20 June 2019 (UTC)
I think "ironically" is the correct choice of words here - he's pointing out the implicit irony in the fact that he's had the same conversation about people not growing and changing for more than a decade. How is that not ironic?

I have a theory that the definition creep of the word is an attempt to eliminate the generation gap (a failure to understand each other due to too large an age difference) and ageism in society in general. If we're all part of the same generation, then where can the prejudice be? If this is true, then I support it, and proudly call myself a millennial, even though I was not one when I was born. 16:46, 19 June 2019 (UTC)

Being a millenial by that definition, I agree with white hat. 10:05, 20 June 2019 (UTC)

I find the last clearly defined generation is mine, Gen X. After that it seems like later born kids were desperate to be defined, like having a generation label would legitimize their experiences, and through a complete lack of imagination came up with Generation Y, LOL! But Gen Y's definition fluctuated wildly for a long time, though it seemed to somewhat settle on about 82 to about 93 or so, followed by Millennials being about 1993 and on (seemingly coined about when people started complaining about how out of touch 20-somethings were in the vicinity of 2015 and on). Now suddenly people are trying to solidly define the term and have exploded it to absorb Gen Y! As far as I gather, that makes Millennials the longest one! WTF? (I REALLY don't care what official definitions exist or what people have written on Wikipedia, this is how the terms have been actually used. Wikipedia can be edited to say anything, and obviously people wildly disagree on the specific meanings of these fuzzy terms). I think it was actually XKCD that taught me that ANYBODY tried to define "Millennials" as reaching as far back as 82, until then I always saw it refer to people born in the 90s. NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:38, 21 June 2019 (UTC)

To be fair, I'm a Gen-Xer, and if people are starting to call me a "Boomer", which should be regarded as a beyond-the-pale insult to all thinking people, people younger than me can put up with being called a "Millennial" even if they're too young for the term to apply.  ;)

More substantively, though, they have a point; Gen Z or whatever they're calling it does seem to have different attitudes and opinions than Generation Y Millennials, so in any substantive discussion the distinction should probably be made. 13:50, 21 June 2019 (UTC)

Sounds to me like White Hat has just gotten the nomenclature confused and Cueball/Randall is needlessly being antagonising. 06:16, 23 June 2019 (UTC)

Ugh This is actually really stupid. Of course the guy with the hat is right a bit. The oldest millennials kids are highest in Middle School factually with the rest younger.It can be believable in like a decade or at least just over half from now. Wait until the older millennials are pushing 50 or close. The only way it is a pinch of salt somewhat close is if the older millennials most likely even being in a cusp were having underage sex and getting pregnant like at 13 or just under age. Just saying definitely the guy with the hat is wrong with thinking millennials are mostly not grown because most to about all are but of course the other guy is wrong too because they wouldn't be that old to really have teenagers just about starting college unless if they were having kids way too young really under age.Thats very little but I'm sure the one who made this didn't know that. Wait almost a decade and then this will be really realistic but right now millennials oldest are mostly mid 30s and youngest in college really over 18. Just stating the facts. 09:44, 6 August 2019 (UTC)

Have you read the explanation? If born "between 1982 and 1999", they are in 2019 between 20 and 38 years old. So yes, some are still quite young and not in "the real world", but at the same time, many can reasonably expected to have kids at an age where college is a relevant topic.--Lupo (talk) 12:02, 6 August 2019 (UTC)

Perhaps a more experiential definition of a "millennial" is in order. Anyone born early that they remember using a card catalog system at a public library is now definitionally NOT a millennial. Anyone that cannot remember using a card catalog system is a millennial or later. Problem solved! -disgruntled (non-)millennial ;)