The millennial divide: How a generation can be split into two very different halves

Older millennials are very different to younger millennials because of the unique time period in which we've grown up

Rachel Hosie
Tuesday 02 May 2017 16:10 BST

Picture a millennial and what springs to mind? Men with man-buns and ironic glasses, women in ripped jeans, instagramming a matcha latte?

We’ve been called snowflakes, lambasted for our supposed entitlement and criticised for being constantly on our phones.

The word ‘millennial’ is widely bandied around, but the definition is actually so broad that it can refer to somebody as young as 22 and as old as 37, both of whom are undoubtedly at very different life stages.

Although there is no official defined period, most demographers use the term ‘millennial’ to refer to those born between the early 1980s and the mid 1990s.

But there are two very distinct types of millennials and it all comes down to whether you were born before or after one specific year: 1986.

Why? It's all based on what age you were when the financial crash of 2008 hit, which has undeniably affected the worldview of a generation.

If you were born before or during 1986, you’d have been around 21 or 22 when the Lehman brothers filed for bankruptcy in 2008. You’d probably finished your education and had started your career. Just when you thought you’d done everything you needed to do to set yourself up for life, the rug was pulled out from underneath you.

Those of us born afterwards, however, were aware whilst still growing up - some of us from a depressingly young age - that we were likely to end up with a lower standard of living that our parents, and that success wasn’t going to come so easily.

Sure enough, we’re the first generation since records began to be less well off than our parents.

But this isn’t the only way the millennials can be split in half - the world in which we live was a very different place in 2000 compared to 2014, when the oldest and youngest millennials came of age.

The younger millennials were arguably the last generation to have an internet-free childhood. We grew up trying to climb trees and playing kiss-chase rather than doing educational Peppa Pig games on iPads.

By the time we were teenagers, however, it was a different story. In 2008, about 1.5 million Brits got broadband and we were expected to use it for our homework.

In contrast, older millennials were already well into their working lives by the time the internet reached the masses. They know how to work without it, younger millennials know nothing else.

This is much the case for smartphones: whilst younger millennials had them as their first or second phones, older millennials didn’t get smartphones until their twenties.

And this has had a huge effect on how we communicate. Because we’ve grown up with the ability to message our friends at all times, younger millennials are notoriously averse to actually speaking over the phone.

“Picking up the phone is as natural at work as going for a coffee - but younger members of staff aren't used to it,” one employer in his 30s told The Independent.

“They'll hunt around for half an hour looking for email addresses or social media feeds, and only if that fails to bear fruit will they tentatively pick up the phone's receiver.”

And this feeds into our love (and simultaneous hate) of dating apps.

Tinder - arguably the first swipe-based app of its kind to go mainstream - was launched in 2012, and the rest of the dating apps followed suit. Now, not a day goes by without a new, increasingly niche dating app hitting the market (take it from a journalist who focuses on relationships and receives press releases about new apps on a daily basis).

But this means many younger millennials have never dated without apps. Of course, it still happens, but it’s actually more shocking now to hear someone met their current love interest not on an app.

We’re less likely to approach people we fancy in bars or cafes than older millennials, who started dating before the advent of the apps. But this also means we’re a sub-generation plagued by commitment issues. Why settle on one person when someone better could be just a swipe away?

Old millennials and young millennials are, generally, very different, so perhaps it's time we stopped being lumped together.

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