Why Do Discussions of Millennials Always Sound Like Something From a Nature Documentary?

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Young woman doing selfie.
Scientists fear that millennials who take photos with iPads are likely to be ridiculed and abandoned by their pack, as nature obeys the cruel laws of natural selection. Photo: Fresh Meat Media LLC/Getty Images

It has taken years of carefully observing this skittish, newly discovered species in the wild, but Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen imagines humans have finally begun to grasp the meaning of the millennial.

I think we’re just beginning to understand how the millennials are behaving,” she told the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, in a statement that seems rather banal until your inner voice reads it again in your best “David Attenborough narrating Planet Earth” impression. In fact, it turns out that much of the endless commentary about millennials sounds better when repurposed as a voice-over track for a nature documentary. (“The millennials are reproducing, and their children are hungry.”) 

If you don’t believe it, strap on your best Werner Herzog or standard British-narrator voice and replace the word millennial in the quotes below with smooth-coated otters, Texas blind salamanders, rare Bactrian camels, or migratory snow geese.

Market researchers quoted in the New York Times: “No one truly understand millennials.”

The Washington Post: “Other sources suggest that millennials are “community-oriented” and self-centered at the same time.”

AARP: “Technology has changed almost every aspect of life for millennials, including dating and mating rituals.”

The Wall Street Journal: “The millennials are reproducing, and their children are hungry.”

Marketing Daily: “Because favorite brands help them feel connected, influential, and productive, Millennials instinctively covet and protect them.”

The Washington Post: “The stereotype, said Carolyn Baird, global research leader at IBM’s Institute for Business Value, is ‘that millennials are a separate species of employee …’”

The United States Potato Board: "When it comes to potatoes, though, Millennials are not significantly different from the rest of the population."

Farm Progress Daily: “The good news for beef, Murray said, is that the Millennials are definitely carnivores.”

The Guardian: “Millennials are adapting fast and we have a great deal to learn from them.”

AARP: “A culture clash is erupting as millennials stampede into the workplace, arriving saddled with a negative reputation.”

The Financial Times: “… they risk losing the hearts and minds of millennials who have better things to do than get stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.”

Time magazine: “The surveys indicated that millennials really like to travel in packs.”

Funworld Magazine: “Services like these make vacationing affordable for millennials, who increasingly travel in packs.”

Bloomberg: “They travel in packs, they eat like fiends, and they have tons of disposable income.”

The Sioux Business Journal: “The social habits of millennials extend offline as well. When it comes to dining out, they travel in packs”

Solid Ground Innovations Blog: “… there are many resources to help you learn more about the mysterious Millennial.”

The Wall Street Journal: “The following chart shows the net migration of Millennials.”

Sabrina Horn, head of a digital communications strategy: “Millennials can sniff out anything that doesn’t feel completely genuine.”

The Guardian: “Indeed, the most interesting fact about millennials is the paradoxical nature of their character – a tension between opposites that must be reconciled. This tension presents a challenge, not only to millennials themselves, but to those trying to understand and manage them.”

Considering the Wild Millennial in its Habitat