From selfies, to Facebook, to ruining… well… everything, millennials are often depicted as a fickle, fragile, and juvenile generation. Despite our youthful reputation, many millennials are approaching or in their 30s and the majority of us have spent a decade or more building relationships. While those relationships are, at their core, not as different from other generations as people might have you think, we also express that love in ways many people trivialize or don’t quite understand.
In 1995 Dr Gary Chapman published the 5 Love Languages, which lists, along with some rather cringe-inducing religious content, the 5 ways he believes humans communicate love: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, and Physical Touch. Now obviously these are far from the only ways people communicate their care for one another, but it is a useful exercise to explore which resonate for you most, I personally respond very well to physical touch, and words of affirmation for example.
From leetspeak to doge memes the internet and millennials are not new to creating languages all our own, and it’s not surprising that we’ve built on what Dr Chapman gave us and developed some new ways to say “I love you”.
There’s nothing quite like finding that perfect spot on the couch where you can see both the TV and your partner’s face as The Doctor and Rose say goodbye, or laughing loudly in the college library because your best friend sent you the perfect meme, or blasting MANIA at the gym because your favorite emo boy won’t shut up about it.1 Media has become such an integral part of our lives that for many of us the movies and music we enjoy is more than just entertainment, it’s part of who we are. When someone can come along and show you the perfect piece of art to add to your collection, or that band that you can’t believe you’ve never heard of, they’re also showing you how well they understand you and your tastes.
Another cool thing about media is that a lot of it tends to hang on to the memories that surround it. I can’t listen to Paradise By The Dashboard Light without thinking about sitting with my dad in his old red pickup, singing at the top of our lungs, and I can’t watch Get Out without remembering what it was like to see it in a sold out theater in Queens. When someone recommends a new piece of media to me, a little piece of them comes with it. I’m thinking about them as I settle in with my big fluffy blanket with tub of Ben & Jerry’s to queue up Netflix, and in all likelihood, texting them to tell them how much I loved it. There’s a special joy in recommending media too, in being able to demonstrate how well you know someone, and in living vicariously through them as they experience something you love for the very first time.
Social Media Exhibitionism
Sometimes it seems as if older generations will never stop taunting millennials about their obsession with technology, but from Facebook, to Twitter, to Instagram, millennials are connecting through their phone screens and computer keyboards, and social media exhibitionism is the new PDA. From cute couple selfies on Instagram to romantic missives posted on a new beau’s wall, the internet is our town square and social media is where we go to brag.
It happens in subtler ways too though, the way someone will strategically like your tweets as they develop a crush on you, or the way you notice they’re always the first to check your Snap Stories. Your Facebook memories remind you of how your relationship blossomed and when they comment on your instagram it’s like they’re giving the world a little glimpse into your relationship. Our social media is more than just random exhibitionism, it’s curated content. It is, in it’s purest form, the us we want to show to the world, and incorporating someone new into that is showing the world that they are just another part of the life you are proud to show off.
I mean, sure, I could hand you my apartment key, or my backpack, but my unlocked cell phone? That’s another trust level entirely. I’d rather someone browse my bookshelf than my camera roll, and I’d tell them my PIN number before my Twitter password. My digital space is carefully designed and better protected than my physical space and when I let people into it, I do it carefully. Shared Google calendars, giving someone access to your search history, or adding their fingerprint to your phone’s security are all huge displays of trust, despite only existing in the digital sphere, and adjusting our own privacy settings to let someone else in can mean different things to different people.
If millennials aren’t the most anxious generation, we are certainly the one that talks about it the most openly. We are an introspective bunch, with many of us dedicated to unpacking everything wrong with the world, society, and ourselves. We’re also afraid of talking on the phone. Luckily, while prior generations may have been more of the “get over it” variety, millennials are more willing to accommodate each others’ quirks, because we know we have plenty of our own.
A millennial best friend will read that text message for the fourth time with you, because yeah, that emoji choice was really weird. A millennial boyfriend will answer the door for takeout when you don’t want to have to speak to another human. A millennial partner will help you craft the perfect email to your professor when that essay is just not going to be on time. A millennial friend will also call you on your shit and get you to help when you need it, because a millennial understands that mental health needs to be cared for in the same way physical health does.
Little known fact here, but millennials are actually allergic to enthusiasm. Truly. We break out in feelings. Well, unless it’s directed towards fandom, or that gorgeous ice cream sundae you just have to post on Instagram. #Blessed. When it comes to other people though? No, that’s not chill, stop being so thirsty. Wait a while to respond to their texts, don’t let them know how badly you want to see them. Courtship is out, apathy is in.
Enthusiasm is vulnerability, if I like you, you have the power to hurt me, and expressing that vulnerability is a deep expression of trust. Whether you’re texting someone in the middle of the day just to tell them you miss them, or hanging on to that note they passed you the weekend you met, sharing the dorky things we do when we’re deep in our feelings can be embarrassing but also really sweet.
- #SorryNotSorry [↩]