Every Major Difference Proving Older and Younger Millennials Actually Have Nothing in Common

For better or for worse, “millennial” has become quite the buzzword. And it’s caused quite the rift among individuals on either end of the spectrum. You see, millennial is an umbrella term that describes a wide range of people, meaning older millennials and younger millennials have had very different upbringings.

According to the United States Census Bureau, millennials were born between 1982 and 2000. And that’s a pretty big gap. So what exactly are the major differences between older and younger millennials? Read on to find out.

1. Growing up with or without the internet

90s kids on bikes

Growing up was a different experience. | Photos.com/iStock/Getty Images

  • Older millennials: Rode bikes around the neighborhood after school
  • Younger millennials: Weren’t allowed to ride bikes without helmets or unsupervised

Older millennials remember dial-up internet and AIM (that’s AOL Instant Messenger for those of you who fall into the younger millennial camp). After all, high-speed Wi-Fi wasn’t a thing back in the day. But even before the dawn of the internet, older millennials got to enjoy riding bikes with their friends after school. And then, it was all about running home in hopes of hearing three novel words: “You’ve got mail.”

Younger millennials, on the other hand, never knew a world without the internet. It’s a major difference that really divides the generation into two distinct groups. And furthermore, as Bustle writes, “Older millennials are truly the last group of kids who will ever have the dual experience of coming of age before and after the internet.” So accurate.

Next: One group really loves this. 

2. Interactions on social media

Younger millennials are all about Snapchat. | Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

  • Older millennials: Remember the days before Facebook
  • Younger millennials: Post their lives on Snapchat

As journalist Jesse Singal explains on CNN, millennials have a certain stigma around them. People generalize the group as being “absolutely obsessed with social media” and living “their entire social lives through their smartphones.” (More to come on smartphones next.) But it’s a stereotype that Singal says doesn’t apply to older millennials, and we couldn’t agree more.

While older millennials indeed remember the early days of Facebook, the younger crew does not. For them, every social media site has been around since they started high school. And on that note, someone should really tell younger millennials that posting every social moment is a very bad idea.

Next: This one’s huge.

3. Smartphones

Older millennials at least can conceptualize the old ways. | S. Alemdar/Getty Images

  • Older millennials: Remember using pay phones (and landlines) and knew their best friend’s phone number
  • Younger millennials: What’s a pay phone?

Take a minute to think about the relationship you have with your phone. If you’re anything like the rest of us, your phone is a multitasking master you couldn’t live without. But that wasn’t always the case, at least not for older millennials.

There’s no doubt the cellphone has come a long way. Since the iPhone’s debut in 2007, consumers have become increasingly dependent on the can’t-live-without-it device. Nowadays, we use our phones as alarm clocks, bill-pay platforms, car-ordering services, and matchmakers. But before Uber was a thing, older millennials had to look up the number of a cab company in a phone book. Obviously, those are obsolete now, as are pay phones and pay-by-check bills.

Next: Plenty of people suffered from this one.  

4. The economic crash of 2008

German Stock Exchange Opens After Wall Street Crash

Older millennials were still dealing with the economy when they graduated. | Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images

  • Older millennials: May have already been in the working world or in the midst of graduating college
  • Younger millennials: Graduated college after the crisis and may have had more opportunities at startups

The development of the internet is one major differentiating factor between the two groups. The economic crash of 2008 is the other. When it comes to one of the worst economic crises the U.S. has ever seen, there’s no doubt the event played a major role in millennials’ careers. The only question is, where were you during the crash of 2008?

For older millennials who’d already entered the workforce, they experienced jobs aplenty, though that may have been riddled with layoffs shortly thereafter. For those who graduated college in the throes of the economic crisis, job security wasn’t a reality, and the then-guaranteed entry into the professional world was no longer so.

Furthermore, older millennials may value experience when it comes to managers, moreso than their younger counterparts do, Helen Min says on Quora. According to Min, who has over 10 years of experience managing older and younger millennials in the tech marketing space, “Setbacks and repetitive work can sometime feel like an assault on younger Millennials’ upward career trajectory.”

Next: Technology just keeps getting better. 

5. Streaming vs. cable

They might not even remember that Netflix was a DVD service. | Thinkstock

  • Older millennials: Watched cable TV with commercials, remember going to Blockbuster
  • Younger millennials: Grew up streaming Netflix, can’t remember when Netflix was a mail-order DVD service

Before there were Netflix, Hulu, and all the other streaming platforms that exist today, there were Blockbuster and cable TV. Older millennials may reminisce fondly of hitting up their local Blockbuster on a Saturday night. For younger millennials, though, it’s a coming-of-age experience they’ll never know.

Similarly, it’s hard to believe even Netflix — the reigning king of streaming movies and comeback series — was a mail-order DVD service at one point in time.

Next: Old school vs. new school

6. Physical books vs. e-readers

Amazon Kindle ebook readers

E-readers have become more and more prevalent. | Amazon

  • Older millennials: Prefer physical books
  • Younger millennials: Prefer e-readers and apps

Here’s one category most millennials seem to agree on: They all love to read. In fact, they’re the best-read generation, according to The Center for Generational Kinetics. So that’s a plus. But a few differences do remain.

Older millennials may veer toward that nostalgic smell of an actual book. The younger crowd, however, may stick to e-readers and apps. Perhaps that’s because the former group actually grew up with physical books, and cracking one open is still considered a nice break after a day of staring at the computer. The latter crowd grew up staring at screens, which may explain their preference for e-readers.

Next: Times sure have changed. 

7. Pop culture references

Mean Girls

Mean Girls is so fetch. | Paramount Pictures

  • Older millennials: Watched Saved by the Bell, My So-Called Life, and Clueless
  • Younger millennials: Watched Harry Potter, Twilight, and Mean Girls 

Pop culture is a major part of our everyday lives. And older and younger millennials alike know the value of a good pop culture reference. But each group certainly has their go-to touchstones. For older millennials, high school favorites, such as Saved by the Bell and My So-Called Life, reigned supreme, while the younger kids were eager to wait hours in line to see the newest Harry Potter and Twilight flicks.

So which millennial camp do you fall into?

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