How the Millennial Generation is Connected to the Media Today

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Millennials and Media

After surveying a total of 2,020 adults, 830 of which were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine, the Pew Research Center summarized that the Millennial generation are “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.” What has changed between this generation and past generations, such as the “Silent” generation, who were known for their “conformist and civic instincts?” Perhaps the greatest influence on young adults, mainstream media, has dramatically progressed in recent decades. The ideals mainstream media frequently present become a piece of the audience’s identity, and the ideals currently being presented are of a broad-minded nature. Television shows celebrating underrepresented groups of individuals, including racial minorities and LGBTQ members, have become some of the highest rated, as well as trendiest programming. Reality television, which puts a special emphasis on “oneself”, has taken a complete turn on previous generations’ conservative and conformist ideals. The identity of millennials can be linked to the concepts they take away from their means of entertainment.

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According to the Pew Research Center’s report on millennials, “Millennials remain the most likely of any generation to self-identify as liberals.” While liberal can be a broad term, principles commonly associated with it are racial, gender, and sexuality equality. These principles have become popular topics in many recent television shows and movies. One in particular, Orange is the New Black, focuses on each of them. Hailed by The Huffington Post as “one of the best new programs of [2013]”, Orange is the New Black presents well-developed characters of all races, genders, and sexualities. In past television shows and movies, an African-American or gay character may be used simply be the sidekick to the lead character. Orange features characters like Poussey Washington, who is both a lesbian and African-American. Instead of inserting a few one-liners into a scene, her heartbreaking backstory is presented and the audience gets to know her personality through conversations with her best friend throughout the series. The show also boasts an impressive thirteen main female characters, promoting feminism with their distinctive character traits and storylines, which include lust, gender dysphoria, and addiction. It is hard to say that young adults who watch programs like Orange is the New Black will not be left considering the concepts these shows present to them. Concerns over violent and sexually explicit content are frequently cited topics when discussing media’s affect on youth. On an episode of his webshow, behavioral scientist Steven Martino presented research claiming children who are exposed to sexual content are more likely to participate in sexual activity earlier in life. The same idea of Martino’s study can be applied to media’s influence on millennials’ liberalism. If one is exposed to the ideas of various forms of equality in their adolescent life, it will motivate him or her to support and agree it.

Millennials “embrace multiple modes of self-expression” according to the Pew Research Center’s report. About seventy-five percent of millennials surveyed have a profile on a social networking site and twenty percent have posted a video of themselves online. The percentage of those with tattoos and body piercings is also highest among millennials. This rise in individualism and expressiveness parallels the entertainment industry’s rise in “self-centered” programming. Reality television shows are at an all time high, with some networks dedicated to the genre. The number of reality programming on television increased 7900% between 2000 and 2010. These shows focus heavily on their stars, a majority featuring “video diaries” where a cast member will talk to the audience about their thoughts on what is occurring. While the subject matter of these programs may vary from child beauty pageant contestants to the luxurious lives of the Kardashians, it is clear that together these shows promote self-obsession to their audience. Celebrities have been created out of people simply appearing as themselves in front of a camera. A significant talent is now only one of the means for becoming famous. Millennials have been described as the “me-generation” because they have grown up in the ripe age of self-expression. We adapt to what is being fed to us, and what is being fed to us is neuroticism. According to a study by, those who watch reality television are “more extroverted, more neurotic, and say that they have lower self-esteem” than those who do not. We can adjust the way we view these shows to affect the way we view our own lives. One can watch Kim Kardashian vacation in Thailand and feel sorry for themselves sitting at home. One can turn on Hoarders and feel slightly more comfortable about their two weeks worth of dirty laundry sitting in the hamper. While previous generations may call millennials self-absorbed, millennials themselves may not even see egoticism in their actions. Being obsessed with uploading selfies to Instagram is most likely not viewed as a conceited act by a twenty year old. Instead, this is simply a part of day-to-day life. Millennials have absorbed the neuroticism commonly displayed in popular culture and made it a regular piece of human behavior.

Every generation has been shaped by the standards popular culture endorses. For millennials, these standards are liberalism taught by progressive narrative programming and neuroticism displayed by reality television and its stars. Orange is the New Black and Keeping Up with the Kardashians are more than just entertainment. They have helped build the personality a majority of millennials identify with. The identity of a generation is defined by the personality traits frequently spread around in mainstream media.

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