Communities

Who Comes After the Millennial Generation? Meet the ‘Founders’

by Rafi Schwartz

December 2, 2015
Image via (cc) Flickr user Matthew Kenwrick

Move over, millennials—there’s a new demographic in town. Meet the Founders.

That’s the name MTV has bestowed upon anyone born after the year 2000, reports Time. It’s a moniker chosen after efforts by the network to help better identify the still-amorphous but slowly recognizable generational demographic beginning to come into its own. “You have a whole generation that is going to represent the extreme endpoint of where millennials were going in many respects,” explained author and generational theorist Neil Howe to Time: “Risk-averse, team-oriented, well-behaved.”

The name was chosen from 500 options generated by more than 1,000 “Founders”—all of them 15 years old or younger—who participated in an MTV survey in March 2015. Other names suggested included “Builders,” “Navigators,” and “the Bridge Generation.” 

In a network statement quoted by MediaPost.com, MTV senior VP of insights Jane Gould acknowledged that “Founders” isn’t, in fact, the first name this particular demographic has been saddled with, saying: “The name ‘Gen Z’ has always seemed like a bit of placeholder to us—it doesn’t convey any sense of identity for this generation—so we thought, ‘Why not ask them to name themselves?’” 

On one hand, it’s a name that connotes a sense of optimistic purpose, that theirs is the generation which will create something great. There is, however, something dismissive about the name in terms of everyone else. If these are the Founders, then what have the rest of us been doing all this time? Are we resigned to be the John Hanson to their George Washington? And what is it, exactly, that they’ll be founding? 

Not everyone, it turns out, is thrilled with the new appellation. Daily News writer Don Kaplan calls it “a ridiculously overstated attempt by MTV to define a generational boundary,” adding that “it comes off more more like a bid to advance the network’s own self-promotional agenda.” It’s a charge not entirely dismissed by Time, which writes that MTV plans to use the data collected in this naming process to “tweak its shows to better reflect this group, which in the next few years will begin displacing millennials as it enters the network’s core demographic of 12 to 34 years old.”

With that in mind, the “Founders” name is perhaps secondary in importance to what the naming itself represents: An effort by a major cultural tastemaker (albeit it one whose clout has diminished some from the heady days of “I want my MTV”) to plant its flag in an upcoming viewership, helping define—outwardly at least—who they are to the rest of the world. 

Still, you have to start somewhere, and a name is as good a place as any to begin. Or, I should say: As good a thing as any to found.

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Who Comes After the Millennial Generation? Meet the ‘Founders’