A sad truth in modern society is that stereotypes exist. Individuals are often lumped together based on race, religion, gender and more recently, generation.
The collective thought that folks must fit a specific mold based solely on the aforementioned characteristics is outdated.
Dr. Jennifer Bosson, a university faculty member specializing in forms of social psychology, claims there are some basic models of stereotyping that suggest it is a natural process.
“No one is born with the contents of stereotypes already in place, but we are hard-wired to process social information in such a way that stereotypes become inevitable” Bosson said.
As far as the development of stereotypes, Bosson included that people observe others engaging in a certain behavior and infer from this observation what the individual is like as a person.
“Stereotyping is an example of the fundamental attribution error. What it boils down to is that people have a very strong tendency to assume that the behavior that we observe people engage in tells us something about who they are and what their character is like,” Bosson said.
A major focus of stereotypical harassment in recent memory is in the direction of millennials. As Bosson put it, millennials are not victims of stereotyping, but targets.
The modern day buzzword, millennial, is often used in a derogatory manner when referring to someone of the y-generation who is considered to be lazy, unmotivated, disengaged and overwhelmingly entitled.
Adam Bakst, a second year student majoring in Mass Communications has an internal distaste for the term and the attached negativity.
“Millennial is a made up, arbitrary term used to group an age, not a lifestyle,” Bakst said.
Bakst shared that he is most often labeled with the millennial stereotype when using technological devices and is publically shunned for engaging more with the virtual world instead of the world around him.
“I do not like when people are like, ‘the world is passing by millennials’, because it’s like all we’re doing is connecting with the world more,” Bakst said.
Bakst also added that those who have a disfavor for millennials, because of the stereotypes that accompany them, are often times the ones who perpetuated those very stigmas.
“Marketing to millennials is the dumbest, most laughable thing in the world. I see commercials where it’s like, ‘tell us how you feel about this car in three emojis or less.’ Just stop,” Bakst said.
Kiley Mills, a fourth year student majoring in Health Science, claims she also does not agree with the labels placed upon millennials.
With any simple use of technology in the presence of an individual from an older generation comes with almost immediate scrutiny, Mills added. However, one of her more major issues with being stereotyped is the invalidation of her opinions and beliefs.
“My opinion is usually disregarded in political discussions because, ‘the millennial generation are too young, naive, liberal-minded, and wimps,’” Mills said.
Mills claimed that the political and economic climate that they were raised in was one of many doubts and worries and to this day has a major impact on her belief systems.
“Millennials were kids during historical events in American history, such as 9/11, the Great Recession and the election of the first African American president. These events shape our way of thinking and the rest of our lives,” Mills said.
According to Bosson, almost all stereotypes have positive and negative attributes associated with them. Though some may buy more into the negative stereotypes of millennials, she expressed there is also a large number of people from older generations that respect millennials because of their wittiness and technological abilities.
Bosson added that because stereotypes are inevitable, we likely would not be able to eradicate them in total.
“Given that we all stereotype, we should encourage people to look beyond the stereotype. We can’t stop it from happening in all, but we need to encourage others to go beyond what your knowledge of the stereotype is and get to know them as people,” Bosson said.