How to understand millennials and their complex identities


Millennials prefer to collect their information from blogs and social media, podcasts and on-demand TV, most don’t read books. Neither do they read newspapers – if you’re reading this in print, you’re likely a baby boomer or Gen X.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Every one of us belongs to the generation we were born into. A generation is defined by its name and your birth year, give or take a few years.

Our Kenyan population is inhabited by folk from the baby boomer, Generation X and the millennial generation.

A millennial is anyone born between 1982 and 1994. Generation X – or Gen X – is anyone between 1965 and 1981. The baby boomer generation is our parents’ generation, they were born before Kenya was given her independence.

I was born in 1984, I have my feet planted in two different generations. I can count myself a millennial and a Gen X. I borrow what I admire from each generation and adopt it as suits me. I’m a chameleon in my own right. I can soak up – and toss out – as many colours as I allow myself.

For example, I have the work ethic of Gen X but I approach my creative career as a millennial. I make my money like a millennial but manage it like Gen X. I dress like a millennial but I’m as stylish as Gen X. I will never join TikTok but I enjoy Instagram – a handful is still clinging onto Facebook, and a majority have set camp on Twitter.

I read books like Gen X, only that I read them as e-books on Kindle. Millennials prefer to collect their information from blogs and social media, podcasts and on-demand TV, most don’t read books. Neither do they read newspapers – if you’re reading this in print, you’re likely a baby boomer or Gen X.

Here are other things you need to know about my millennial generation. We’re the most misunderstood and most exposed generation thus far – the Internet has brought the world to our fingertips.

We inhale as much Internet as we do air, we are constantly on our phones scrolling and tapping. We’ve seen and heard too much from the world out there for our own good. Choice has spoilt us. We’ve grown far much faster than our baby boomer parents can catch up with us to understand us.

I have three siblings born after me, after 1984, and my parents are often dumbfounded by some of their choices. You’ll see them shaking their heads and exasperating in surrender.

I imagine them behind the closed door of their bedroom hissing things like, ‘I don’t understand these children!’ Or calling me to ask, ‘Why don’t you talk to your brother?’

Social media

As a millennial generation, we share a lot of our lives on social media. Mundane things like what we’re having for lunch and what we’re wearing, work we did yesterday. We also share intimate details of our lives like births and deaths, and heartbreaks. Sometimes live as it happens. ‘Guys, I’m going into surgery right now. Say hi to my doctor.’

We share in this enthusiastic fashion because our followers are our online family, they’re a community connected by what we share, and it’s considered a safe space. That’s also why we know each other by our social media handles more than by our first names. I’m known as Craft It.

We’re not as religious as the previous generations were, instead we’re spiritual. Our God is not the God of the Bible but the Universe.

We pay a lot of attention to our energy. We’re aware that we’re spiritual beings on Earth for a human experience, we’re spiritual vessels for this flow of energy from the Universe. We’re spiritually awakened, we’re the ‘woke’ generation. ‘Craft It is woke!’

We’re also finicky about our identity. Identity is fluid. First, there is gender identity: she, he and they/them. The they/them are non-binary, they neither identify as male nor female, but as both. Or none depends on who you’re asking.

Then there’s sexual identity. Previous generations coupled up as she’s and he’s, but not the millennial generation. There are men openly paired up with other men, women to other women, and the theys/thems can be attracted to either women, men or other theys/thems.

Lastly, there is personal identity. It’s linked closely to gender and sexual identity, to personal meaning. Personal identity asks the existential questions of ‘Who am I?’ ‘What am I?’ and ‘What do I want out of my life?’

The hunt for personal identity may explain why millennials are constantly hopping from job to job, starting and dropping projects. Longevity evades us.

I’m telling you all this because there’s always a shift from one generation to the next. Mind-sets and beliefs evolve. Ways of life are challenged. Values are brought under scrutiny.

You must be open-minded about these shifts otherwise you won’t accept people for what – or who – they are.

Because no matter the generation, we all want the same things: we want a place to call home, a place where we can live happy and healthy wholesome lives with the people we love.

@_craftit; [email protected]