What besides youth sets millennials apart from their elders — the wizened silent generation, the graying boomers, the midlife Gen-X’ers?
The usual answer seems to be “narcissism” — self-absorption indulged to comical extremes. We all can recite the evidence: the breathlessly updated Facebook profile, the cascade of selfies, the Kardashians.
Millennials know this litany, too. “People have been calling me a narcissist since I was 3,” says Hannah, the character Lena Dunham plays in “Girls,” her comedy of millennial manners. It’s a small joke on Hannah but a bigger one on the anxious, hovering adults who supplied the clucking soundtrack when she was growing up.
But a very different picture of millennials emerges from what may be the most illuminating literary project of our era, the Pew Research Center’s sequence of reports on millennials. The 2010 edition, subtitled “Confident. Connected. Open to Change,” offered an X-ray of its first wave, the “roughly 50 million millennials who currently span the ages of 18 to 29.”
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