On a recent vacation, New York University grad student Taylor Friedman, 23, lounged at the pool, Snapchatting away, with her five older siblings, ages 30 to 37. Several were curious about the smartphone app, so she tried to give them a lesson — but they couldn't get the hang of it. A day later, Friedman's brother asked whether he should text or call a young woman. "Text, of course," she said. But her aghast older sister advised, "Don't text, call!"
Except for the oldest, the Friedman siblings are millennials, the nation's largest generation (spanning ages 19 to 35). They've been typecast as the entitled, narcissistic offspring of boomers. Howling the loudest against this stereotype are the older millennials, whose lifestyles are often very different from their younger counterparts.
They're called "aging millennials," a term coined by Madison Vanderberg, 28, of Los Angeles, a senior editor at the lifestyle website HelloGiggles. She laments that she and her friends are lumped into the same millennial mold as her 22-year-old sister. "We're different from these kids who watch YouTube as a TV show [and] who play Pokémon Go. That's not me and my friends," Vanderberg says.
Aging millennials have 401(k)s, good jobs and think about getting married and having kids, she says, but that's not reflected in the media. "On TV, whenever they make a show for millennials, it's always about how they can't get their act together!"
What exactly separates the older generational cohort born in the 1980s from the younger group born in the mid-1990s through 2000? To help boomers parents understand the differences, we asked Vanderberg to share some of her observations about aging millennials.
- Digital divide. Older millennials can recall writing term papers without Google and attending college in a pre-Netflix, pre-Hulu world. "I had to learn digital, while to my sister, digital is like having another hand," Vanderberg says.
- Apps. They're not obsessed with them. "I have five apps. If I want to find a good restaurant, I go online and Google it, not use a phone app. And I don't have any dating apps on my phone. I use Instagram, but I don't check it every minute like younger millennials."
- Reading. "We read the New York Times online and follow Kylie Jenner on Instagram. But we also share op-eds, personal essays and other articles." Younger millennials rarely share an article — unless it's about celebrities — or read a book, she says.
- Dating. Dating apps are ubiquitous now, "but we didn't go on our first Internet date until we were 25. We met people in school. Now younger millennials meet exclusively online, and sometimes that's the only way the relationship exists."
In the interest of equal time, we asked Friedman what her older siblings don't understand about younger millennials.
- Social media. "We're on it all the time," she says. "It's a huge part of my life. If I don't constantly scroll through Instagram, I feel I am missing so much."
- Email. While her siblings hold family conversations on email, "I tell them to text, but they don't."
- Emojis. "I love emojis and use all different ones." But her older siblings tend to consistently use only about five. Friedman is particularly baffled by the habits of one older brother. "For some reason, he only uses a pig emoji. I don't get it!"
Mary W. Quigley, a journalist and author, has written two books about motherhood and work. A New York University journalism professor, she is the mother of three adult children and blogs at http://Mothering21.com