Hey all! Today is a super special treat that’s been in the works for a while but is finally ready. My best friend Megan runs a killer blog called The Chronicles of Megan, and now that I’ve started my own we’re doing our first joint post! Her blog covers Millennial lifestyle topics, specializing in beauty content, and I’m on here trying to tackle the many-fold challenges of adulting.
So for our joint venture, we decided to take a fun and still sincere look at Millennial trends. Of course, we in no way want to suggest that this is the experience or perspective of all Millennials (for more on that, see my intro blog post), and while we definitely identify with some of these trends we don’t necessarily endorse all of them.
We wanted to cover the broad categories of lifestyle trends, some of which are general, and some of which are specific to this generation. We ended up with seven topics: Fashion & Design; Food; Visual Culture; Technology; Finances; Unattachment; and Destigmatizing Taboos. Four of them are covered below, and the other three are on Megan’s blog. With all that said, let’s dive in!
Megan: I’m just gonna say it: Food is almost sacred to Millennials.
Rachal: It is. I don’t think there’s even an almost about it.
M: You’re right. Beyond basic nutrition, it fulfills other needs like social dimensions and gives us access to a small amount of luxury, since we often can’t afford many.
R: Definitely. Not only is it a communal experience, both in cooking and eating, but provides us the opportunity to imbue further meaning into what could otherwise be a boring necessity. For example, I was visiting a friend in San Francisco recently, and we spent the entire day making homemade soup and dumplings just because that was how we wanted to spend our time with each other. And that’s what matters.
M: Hipster food has more purpose than being Instagram-worthy. Food has evolved into this whole other outlet for creativity and avenue of defining who we are. I mean, just look at avocados — you know that if someone posts their avocado toast on their IG feed they’re either hella basic or from California.
R: Or maybe that’s how they’re choosing to invest the money for their down payment.
M: Okay, Dr. House. *insert eye roll emoji*
R: Seriously, though. It doesn’t feel like anybody used to be so obsessed with specific ingredients. Now it’s like, “Rosé!” Before, nobody was like, “Merlot!”
M: Hipster food trends do need to calm down though.
R: I swear if I see one more “deconstructed” menu item, I’m gonna lose it. Just give me my freaking burger (please).
R: The exponential growth of technology tracked so closely with our own growing up that the timelines of the two are permanently intertwined for us.
M: Yeah. Thinking about the first iPod makes me think of middle school. The release of smartphones marks the beginning of high school.
R: And that’s our exact experience, while for older Millennials elementary school dial-up may be followed by the installment of school computer labs.
M: Because we grew up with ever-advancing technology, we have more than a strong connection to our old devices. We have a fondness for the nostalgia itself. These things had such an impact on our childhood, so throwbacks are very tangible. That’s why reboots of not only television shows, but things like arcades and video games (i.e. beercades and Pokémon Go) are popular.
R: And that even extends to tech that we can’t really claim, like vinyl and typewriters — I own both. We’ve also passed that on to the next generation, a lot of whom feel a nostalgic connection to tapes even though we’re the ones who grew up with them.
M: It’s almost like since our lives have been so saturated with technology, that we reject it at times because we need to unplug since we’ve become more and more connected, starting from childhood.
R: Yeah. Now we’re constantly connected through social media, email, texting, and so on. It’s even shaped how we consume entertainment primarily through streaming services, rather than traditional methods like cable. Because our primary consumption of entertainment is so technology-based, our next instinct is to go back to nostalgias like Nintendo and vinyl. The good news is living our lives online provides more avenues to be connected with people, especially ones that are far away. But it’s also inescapable.
M: Right. Because technology is so ingrained in our culture and ever-advancing, it’s almost necessary that we self-teach. For example, in my Web Design class we didn’t even have a textbook — by the time one could be written, edited, and published, the technology had already changed. It’s a very normal thing to learn from just “googling” it or watching a YouTube tutorial.
R: Speaking of textbooks, we’re all broke. And as much as it sucks, staggering amounts of student debt are a trademark Millennial trend.
M: As a collective whole, we’re in debt up to our eyeballs until the next few decades.
R: Even for those of us that are fortunate enough not to individually have debt, we’re still financially unstable. Of course, some of that is due to the fact that many of us are just starting out in our careers and independent lives, but it goes beyond that. After the “Great Recession,” our reality shifted, and that shaped how we approach money and spending.
M: Even though Millennials love to embody “treat yo self,” they also question if they can buy that one slice of pizza before pay day. This is also why we love free stuff.
R: Yeah, I mean I went into an art show the other weekend because I was walking by and someone said they had free snacks and drinks.
M: We like to take those opportunities, especially since we can get stuck in the catch-22 of needing the degree to get the job, and then when you have the degree being told you need experience you don’t have because you spent your time getting the degree. It just makes finding a job that much harder, and it feels like our hard work doesn’t get us as far as it did for our parents.
R: The patterns and practices that previous generations relied on to secure their slice of the American Dream were often no longer possible for us. As much as it’s funny to joke about not being able to afford to buy a house because we eat avocado toast, we really have no idea how we’ll be able to afford the quintessential white picket fence lifestyle — or if we even still want it.
M: Millennials are so transitory, and there are a lot of uncertainties in our lives. Because of financial instability and rapidly changing job markets, we tend to see a lot of our situations as temporary and so we try not to get attached to things that don’t seem realistic any longer. We question the white picket fence lifestyle and some of us have almost rejected it as the norm. For example, I can’t picture myself raising a family or being attached to a place to permanently call home, at least for the foreseen future.
R: I think you’re right. It’s as if we’ve let go of the fractured American Dream we watched older generations chasing. Instead, we’ve developed a Kerouac-esque affection for lostness and sewn it into the word “wanderlust.” That wanderlust is romanticized in our Instagram feeds, and entire professions have emerged from it. Because we can’t have what we were told that we should want when we were growing up, and have seen the unhappiness of people who have everything, the last thing we want to do is settle. We want to go out and experience different cultures and sceneries and histories.
M: It’s even a thing now to gift people on Airbnb an experience instead of an actual object. We still like our stuff, but we’re willing to have less of it for more experiences. As our values have shifted, we have felt more free to simply live our lives without societal pressures to perform or present a certain way.
I really hope you enjoyed today’s post, and be sure to check out the other half of our take on Millennial trends on Megan’s blog. (Also shameless plug, you should totally follow her on Instagram @chroniclesofmegan and Twitter @meganchronicles.) It was a ton of fun to put together, but was also an important chance to highlight some of the benefits and challenges within popular Millennial culture.
What aspects of Millennial culture stand out most to you? I’d love to hear in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!