Beyond millennial pink and avocados: using AI to explore the portrayal of millennials in the media

Image of the post author Carolina Starkhammar

“Millennials and their spending habits are wreaking havoc on these 18 industries” – this is one of many headlines about the notorious millennials. They don’t seem like a nice bunch, which is worrying considering that I’m supposedly one of them. Spoiled, disrespectful, addicted to technology, the list goes on. Is this how the world sees me?

As a 24 year old researcher, who has spent years reading these seemingly negative articles about millennials, I neither feel like one nor consider myself to be one. In the midst of this, I see brands desperately trying to target this ‘vital’ group. Air France even went to the length of creating a specific airline targeting millennials called ‘Joon’, complete with VR headsets, a trendy cabin crew and a menu consisting of quinoa salad and organic wine. If you believe the stereotype, this might be just what millennials are looking for in an airline. The reality was different. The airline proved unsuccessful and announced it will cease operations mid 2019 due to “the brand being difficult to understand from the outset for customers, for employees, for markets and for investors”. Ouch.

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The term ‘millennial’ is now a standalone tool to describe an entire generation. But isn’t this what we call stereotyping – something we are trying to avoid? In our progressive society, we know we can’t judge people based on stereotypes such as ethnicity, religion and gender. So why is it okay to stereotype based on age?

But then I thought – is this all in my head? Perhaps this is just me being a snowflake millennial. I had to be sure. I had to investigate this further. So I used an AI-powered comparative linguistics tool to uncover the media portrayal of millennials and how this has changed over the past 5 years.

I will be presenting the results of this study at the MRS Speaker Evening on 11th July 2019. It’s already sold out but we’ll be sharing the full findings of the project after the event. Get in touch if you’d like to be one of the first to see them.

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