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BEZAWADA: Millennials are changing world

Opinions Column: Traipse the Fine Line

When you google the term millennials, the third search query that shows up is “millennials are killing."

Killing does not refer to the morbid connotation. It is more so in the figurative sense. Currently, millennials (and Gen Z’s, essentially the younger millennials) are eroding at an alarming rate the industries that the older Baby Boomers — their parents — grew up with, taking down many of their long-held values with them. Of course millennials are not physically vandalizing stores — they are just slowly driving them out of business, using two weapons typical to the cosmopolitan: well-connected millennial sense of humor and its liberally aligned political views.

Recently, a tweet went viral, achieving a mega-popular 100,000 retweets and more than 300,000 likes. In response to an article by The Economist titled “Why aren’t millennials buying diamonds?,” Twitter user Joseph Morgan wryly commented, “Sorry, I was too busy paying $485 for a campus parking pass.” Morgan’s tweet is one among thousands of either outraged or amused responses to various older, authoritative sources condemning the younger generation for not participating in businesses obviously inaccessible to them given the state of the current economy.

While not necessarily a jab at rising college costs alone, Morgan’s passive-aggressive apology is indeed the face of the recent slew of angry, viciously sarcastic outcries aimed at unrealistic, contradictory standards set by an older generation unaware of or stubbornly ignorant to the challenges young adults face. And now, tired of their protests for higher minimum wage being accused of ungratefulness and campaigns for supportive, safer, more inclusive policies being swept under the rug, millennials are taking matters into their own hands.

They are killing off entire industries and they are not stopping.

The beauty is in the strategy’s simplicity. Especially in the United States, the millennial, post-millennial and millennial-Gen Z cusp are experiencing a new wave of anti-capitalist sentiment — with unprecedented rates of Internet access and usage comes an acutely in-depth awareness of global issues, namely the increasing divide between those of higher and lower income, the climate crisis and the constant injustice victims of sexual assault, discriminatory immigration procedures and racial conflict are subject to, leading to a growing distrust in corporate culture.

It is not like this controversy arises from pure compassion for the less fortunate. Individual student loans have amassed a total debt of more than a trillion dollars, job competition is growing fiercer and salaries are fluctuating. Millennials are equally concerned about their own well-being. But they struggle to communicate their ideas to the powerful, immovable capitalist wall that is the older generation.

What better way to get them to listen than to turn their own weapon against them?

One of the only default powers millennials possess is the power of demand. In fact, there is an entire industry dedicated to marketing to children. Millennials simply directed their demand against industries they do not care about, dislike or cannot afford. Millennials are impacting a lot of industries, according to the Business Insider. From real estate to fast food chains to almost humorously niche markets like napkins and fabric softener, it is easy for the more conservative critic to mourn the falling stock values of companies that are crucial contributors to a nation’s domestic monetary well-being.

But if you observe closer, you will notice that the companies millennials are targeting are not random. They are not squandering their money or practicing otherwise unwise financial habits. They are simply putting the money somewhere else. They are trying to prove a point. Dollars commonly spent on heavily commercialized, ethically controversial fast food chains like McDonalds are instead handed over to newer chains like Chipotle and Shake Shack, which use organic or locally sourced ingredients. Instead of heading straight to homeownership, they rent apartments for a longer time — a wise decision considering the unstable availability of a livable minimum income — and then invest in a home. Portions of the $200 million drop in light yogurt sales in 2016 were spent on Greek yogurt— a far more protein-packed, nutrient-rich and sugar-free option. Sexually objectifying businesses, such as Hooters, are also dropping pace, with more than 7 percent of locations shut down between 2012 and 2016.

The free market exists to satisfy people’s demand. The market can therefore be analyzed to predict future demand. Instead of objecting to millennials’ choices, it would be far more prudent to instead follow along and notice the signs they are revealing through their actions. To younger generations, ethics, convenience, health and quality matter more than cost. Although many cannot afford products that abide by such high standards, they definitely would if they could. Critics should cater to that demographic instead of chastising its choices.

So, are millennials killing the diamond industry? Sure. It is also a loss of tradition. But sometimes, trees need to be cut down in favor of younger, healthier saplings. We know that it is happening. Maybe it is time to understand why.

Sruti Bezawada is a Rutgers Business School and School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program  sophomore double majoring in marketing and communications and minoring in Japanese. Her column, “Traipse the Fine Line," runs every alternate Wednesday.


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