I perceive Millennials as being divided into three waves.
Early Millennials (Seattle wave):
1979-1987. We are the most X-like of the three waves, with much cynicism among us, and even many of the 1987 cohorts perceive themselves as being Xers.
American Seattle-wavers were the people who didn't get behind Bush after 9/11 the way most older Americans did, and accused him, in 2001-2003, of being greedy for oil. A Harris poll of American 13-to-18-year-olds
(born 1982-1988) taken mere days after September 11, 2001 found that only 22% of them would be willing to pay higher taxes, only 14% have their phone calls spied on by the goernment, only 3% not be able to practice their religion, and a mere 3% not being able to express their feelings about the government (i.e. Bush-bashing) if it would prevent another 9/11 from happening, in a time when Fox News reported "Americans prefer security to liberty, 2-to-1". Only 38% of teen-age respondents said they would still support the war in Afghanistan if American soldiers, sailors and airmen were killed, and only 31% (19% of girls) said they would still support the war even if innocent civilians were killed. We were the college students among whom military enlistments didn't budge after 9/11, and actually went down
as soon as the invasion of Iraq got underway. Even those who supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq often saw Junior himself as stupid and unworthy given his positions on domestic issues. We had bad experiences with authority figures in junior high and high school prior to 9/11, which shaped our reaction to the attack at that point in our lives (ages 13-22). We were the pierced teens who inspired Calidornia to pass a bill requiring under18s get permission from our Boomer parents for body piercing in 1997. If you were born between 1980 and 1984, you were likely in high school during Columbine, and remember the civil liberties violations (requiring clear backpacks, a faculty backlash against goths, etc.) that ensued after that school shooting. We were the wave participating in the Battle of Seattle -- along with some late Xers -- in 1999. We remember the flap surrounding Napster in colleges, whether or not we were in college at the time. Even the oldest of us were too young to vote for or against Bill Clinton in 1996. In 2000, some 18-to021-year-olds voted for Junior Bush, Gore, or Nader, though most did not. In 2004, 18-to-25-year-old voters preferred Kerry to Bush. We preferred Obama to the late John McCain in huge numbers in 2008, when 18-to-29-year-olds were Millennials. And of course, we preferred Bernie Sanders over either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
At age 17, our wave listened to music like the Wallflowers, Alanis Morissette, No Doubt, Better than Ezra, Live, Smash Mouth, Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, Third Eye Blind, Sugar Ray, Ricky Martin, Semisonic, OMC, Blink-182, the Barenaked Ladies, Fleming and John, Eminem, Jimmy Eat World, Good Charlotte, Avril Lavigne, Michelle Branch, Pink, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Puddle of Mudd, Nickelback, Evanescence, Nelly, Nelly Furtado, Coldplay, Destiny's Child/Beyonce, and Aaliyah.
Technologically, most of us are old enough to remember rotary phones, and all of us remember a world before cellphones and before social media. My 1981-born sister and I, in fact, grew up learning to literally dial a phone in our house, and remember the day our mother got her first car phone. We played Oregon Trail on the school computer -- we were indeed natives to the PC. We also played the Carmen Sandiego games and other educational computer games, back when there was a strict divide between computer games and video games.
Core Millennials (Occupy wave):
1988-1996. These are the purest Millennials, the typical objects of the media's "avocado toast" jabs and satire. The most Millennial Millennials.
Occupy-wavers were ages 4-13 on 9/11. For the most part, they rallied around Bush and got in sync with the patriotic, jingoistic mood of pre-Millennial Americans at the time. Around 2003, more started to question the system as Iraq was invaded. Their rebellion began in the tenties instead of the nineties, as they passed through their teens and put up dark LiveJournal and DeviantArt pages with My Chemical Romance quotes. In 2011, this wave was dominating the Occupy Wall Street protests. (A thread I saw on the Fourth Turning board around this time referenced core Millennials' appearances in movies as being the whiners, and argued that this wave was being perceived as whiny when it protested Big Banks.) They are also the geekiest wave of Millennials -- they were the target audience for Pokémon, Harry Potter, and Animorphs . . . but also Barney. They were largely raised by Joneser parents, with some Boomer and Gen-X parents in the mix. The first U.S. elections a member of this wave really understood would be the 2000 or 2004 election, and their 18-to-20-year-old members probably preferred Obama over McCain. Much like the early wavers, they would have preferred Bernie to either Hillary or the Trumpster.
At age 17, their wave listened to music like My Chemical Romance, Peter Bjorn & John, KT Tunstall, Taylor Swift, Colbie Caillat, T.I., Lil Wayne, Drake, Soulja Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Death Cab, Fall Out Boy, the Killers, Ingrid Michaelson, Avicii, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, One Direction, Foster the People, OneRepublic, Ke$ha, Gotye, Ellie Goulding, Paolo Nutini, Bassnectar, Carly Rae Jepsen, Muse, Imagine Dragons, Passenger, Adele, Adam Lambert, and Ed Sheeran.
Technologically, they are digital natives, and were starting college, in high school, in junior high, or even in elementary school when Facebook became mainstream (i.e. expanded beyond colleges), so they're social media natives too. They remember a time before smartphones, and the older among them can remember a time before cellphones became mainstream.
Late Millennials (Parkland wave):
1997-2004. These are the most Fifth-Worlder-like Millennials. (I call the generation born 2005-today "Fifth Worlders" because most members of the post-Millennial generation will have their first memories of the world in the Fifth World, as of the Mayan calendar.) Often some or all of them are categorized as "iGen" or "Generation Z" by generational pundits, but Howe & Strauss place them in the Millennial Generation because they remember life before the Crash of 2008.
Parkland-wavers were, for the most part, too young to understand what was going on on September 11, 2001, even if they remember it -- and many weren't born at all (they were all under 5 at the time). Their rebellion didn't begin until this decade, as they passed through adolescence and felt stifled by their Gen-X parents
. They acquired their name and fame as a political lot after a school shooting occurred at Douglas High in Parkland, Florida earlier this year and teen-age Parkland-wavers impressed older people through their activism both for and against gun control. If Washington, D.C. votes to lower its voting age to 16 this autumn, Parkland-wave Washingtonians will become this year the first post-Civil-War wave of Americans to attain suffrage before their eighteenth birthday. They are also the most depressed wave of Millennials, compared to the other two waves at like age (teens, early twenties). 1997-to-2000 cohorts often turned out to campaign for Bernie in Election 2016, and their 18-and-19-year-olds overwhelmingly voted for him in the primaries. In the 2020 Election, 1997-2002 or 1997-2004 cohorts will be eligible to vote. The oldest will be 23.
At age 17, their wave has listened to music like Bastille, Clean Bandit, Sia, Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, Amy Shark, Shawn Mendes, Hailee Steinfeld, Alessia Cara, Ariana Grande, Iggy Azalea, the Revivalists, Portugal. The Man, John Legend, Twenty One Pilots, Zedd, Dua Lipa, Lil Yachty, Childish Gambino, Echosmith, Pharrell, Meghan Trainor, and the list will contin7e.
Technologically, they are the most digitally native out of all three waves, unable to remember a time without a cellphone (or two or three) on every corner. They are also unlikely to remember a music world before the iPod, and are natives to the use of iPhones or perhaps Androids. They have always had iTunes around, and are unlikely to remember firsthand the Napster flap.