Millennials Rewrite The Census For A Better Sense Of Selfie Millennials are the largest and most diverse generation in American history. Some 18- to 34-year-olds say the act of taking a selfie for the #NPRCensus taught them more about themselves — and others.
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Millennials Rewrite The Census For A Better Sense Of Selfie

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Millennials Rewrite The Census For A Better Sense Of Selfie

Millennials Rewrite The Census For A Better Sense Of Selfie

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For the last few months we've been telling stories of the millennial generation in our series New Boom.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

That cohort is the largest in American history, and when we asked 18 to 34-year-olds to take a selfie for us, they responded...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "#SELFIE")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Let me take a selfie.

CORNISH: Go ahead, stifle that groan. Listen, we didn't want just any selfie. We asked for a photo that reveals something about how they think of themselves.

SIEGEL: The instructions were to write on a mirror or hold up a sign listing the identity categories one might find on a census survey.

JOSE SANTOS WOSS: Hispanic.

JENNA DOBISENSKI: Female

AARON KIMBALL: Thirty.

CHRISTINA SONG: Married.

CORNISH: And also how they'd describe themselves outside of checked boxes.

WOSS: Twitter-machine expert.

DOBISENSKI: Big dreamer.

KIMBALL: Philosophical Taoist.

SONG: And believes in being a good person.

CORNISH: And as our New Boom series ends, we asked a few of those selfie-takers to reflect on their submissions.

SIEGEL: We'll start with 28-year-old Christina Song of Portland, Ore. She's part of this generation that's the most diverse in U.S. history, but she says she struggles with being seen fully.

SONG: I wanted to participate because my whole life I've been kind of going through, like, an identity crisis. I was always categorized as an Asian person in any census or any applications for school and I really feel like there's a lot more to me. You know, there should really be, like, a "Portlandia" episode about my life. It's, like, girl in Portland, Korean-American, plays music, does art, but hides that stuff from her family.

CORNISH: Song says she also feels older generations don't recognize the challenges many millennials have already faced - specifically, shouldering record student debt after graduating college at the height of the financial crisis.

SONG: It's really hard because I feel like being a millennial, like, I always feel like I have something to prove. You know, there's, like, all these societal pressures, like, oh, you're going to go to school. You're going to get a great job. And then you're going to get married and you're going to have - lead this, like, happy, beautiful life. And I just feel like we got really unlucky with the timing.

CORNISH: This group is also coming of age during a time of incredible connectivity and many told us they feel frustrated with the way they are characterized because of that.

SIEGEL: Among them was 22-year-old Jenna Dobisenski of Chisago City, Minn.

DOBISENSKI: I hear all these negative stereotypes about how we are self-absorbed, and they think we value technology over our peers.

WOSS: My name is Jose Santos Woss. I'm 29 years old and I am from Washington, D.C. We are very much a part of the Internet age, so I guess that it gets misinterpreted because so much of our lives are online.

SIEGEL: Other young people say this is also an opportunity.

CORNISH: Surveys show that despite their troubles, this is an optimistic generation. Here's Aaron Kimball, a 31-year-old from Kanosh, Utah.

KIMBALL: One of the side effects of being more connected with each other and with the world around us is it gives us the potential of being much more aware of what's going on - of the injustices, of the tribulations. I think that we have the potential to be the generation that - heaven forbid we should ever truly be in charge - we could do amazing things if we embraced the compassion and the caring that are there instead of letting ourselves become trivialized.

SIEGEL: Aaron Kimball, Jose Santos Woss, Christina Song and Jenna Dobisenski reflecting on the selfies they took for our New Boom series.

CORNISH: You can still contribute your own selfie - remember to include what you consider your generic identity categories as well as what you wish people knew about you. Use the hashtag #NPRCensus on Twitter and Instagram.

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