Monday, November 17, 2014

Do Millennials Even Read?

Millennials have grown up in an instant-gratification world with the Internet and its distractions right at their fingertips. But if you think that means they don't value reading, guess again. ♦

There seems to be a misconception among people in my parents’ generation that people my age are uninformed and unmotivated. That all we do is sit around and play games on our smartphones while watching stupid reality television, and never crack open a book that isn’t required. While yes, I do enjoy some trashy reality TV every once in a while, I’m also an avid reader, and so are most of my friends.
       When my friends and I go out to dinner together, we don’t sit with our noses in our cell phones, and only talk about what happened on Real Housewives. We talk about our lives, and quite often we talk about what we’ve been reading.
       Now, if we want to compare millennials and the baby boomers in regards to reading, the pictures will probably look pretty different. There’s no doubt that we consume our information differently—whether it be reading Huff Post on our smartphones, watching a satirical newscast, or reading an e-book—but that doesn’t mean we’re not consuming it.
       Think about it from our perspective: we’ve grown up in a time where seemingly anything we want is an Internet search away. We want to listen to a song, we search for it on YouTube. We want to watch a TV show, we pull up Netflix. We want to read a book, we buy it instantly for our Kindles or get free 2-day shipping from Amazon. And if we don’t like said book in the first few chapters? It was only ten bucks anyway, and there are literally thousands more to choose from.
       And the funny part is, our generation had nothing to do with creating this instant-gratification world—we were just the first to grow up consuming it.
       There are still those of us who read the books that could very well end up as the classics of our time. Books written by Jhumpa Lahiri and Mohsin Hamid. But we’re also a group that appreciates the classics from the generations before us—we’re Fitzgerald fanatics, have the hots for Heller, and go wild for Woolf.
       And this group doesn’t just include my fellow English students. My Econ and Stats double major friend recently let me borrow Tina Fey’s autobiography, my architecture best friend asked to borrow my copy of The Bell Jar, and my marketing major roommate raves about Persepolis. What’s my point? That these are just three examples of people my age who read outside of school, and they’re only scratching the surface. It’s not just us crazy English majors that still love the written word.
       And yet, a lot of my friends’ favorite books are popular bestsellers like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Maybe it’s not Dickens, but that doesn’t mean these series shouldn’t be respected, too.
       These books are not just pointless entertainment. The Hunger Games, for example, deals with some pretty important and heavy themes. It’s not just about a boy and girl who fall in love—it’s about a strong female protagonist who has to kill other people in order to stay alive in a game imposed by a corrupt government, and saves the boy in the process.
       It’s also significant to note that I know almost as many adults in older generations who read this book as I do people my age. The popular fiction of today may not seem that groundbreaking on the surface, but Young Adult (YA) authors are incredibly intelligent about their audience.
        They’re aware that they’re writing in a culture that constantly has new things at its fingertips. They also seem to know something else: the millennial reader is not all that different from the older adult reader.
       People like to say that millennials will kill print, and maybe even books, and that we’ll only read something if it’s less than 140 characters on our cell phones. On the contrary, a September Pew Research Center study has found that us crazy millennials aren’t that different from the rest of the country. People may not always be reading the newest literary masterpiece, but people are still reading.
       So next time you see a generation Y-er sitting at a bus stop or waiting in line at the grocery store with their nose stuck in their phone, take a peek. You might be surprised to find them reading a New York Times article, or maybe even a riveting e-book.
  • About the Author
    Ellie Cook is currently a senior Creative Writing major at Miami University and is preparing to be shoved out of the nest after graduation. Her hobbies include copy editing for Up Magazine, dreaming up crazy concepts for her fictional stories, and dabbling in the world of sarcasm. She plans to pursue a career in magazine feature writing after graduation.

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