Columns & Commentary 2

Top Ten Pop Culture References of the Millennial Generation

Every generation has pop culture references that stick out in the minds of those who grew up during that time. While there are countless references for Millennials, these are the top ten according to Ball State University students.

The Millennial generation is unique in a way where social media has the ability to make something go viral within days, and gives people the ability to build friendships from across the globe. Social media, along with reality television, can make anyone famous in an instant and has become a key aspect of our society. While there are a multitude of pop culture references that define Millennials, there are a few that stick out to students at Ball State.


  1. The Kardashians

One of the most famous families in the world, the Kardashians, got their start on a reality show called Keeping Up With the Kardashians in 2007, and very quickly shot to fame. Critics including Barbara Walters say that they are “famous for being famous.”Robin Daywalt, a senior hospitality major said,“Everyone sees the Kardashians as something outrageous or something to laugh at. I wouldn’t say they seriously affected our generation, but they certainly were a part of it, because Kardashian is such a household name.”


  1. YOLO

The acronym for ‘you only live once’ was made popular by Drake’s song “The Motto” and quickly transformed into everyday slang. Madeline Atkinson, sophomore psychology major, said, “[YOLO] is used before you do something you probably shouldn’t do. It is the ability to justify doing stupid stuff.”


  1. American Idol

American Idol premiered in 2002, creating a trend of televised talent contests including America’s Next Top Model and Top Chef. The reality show has produced numerous successful recording artists including Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, who have gone on to win numerous awards including multiple Grammys and Billboard awards. The final season of the show premieres in 2016 and will be the end of an era for all Millennials who grew up watching.


  1. The Cha Cha Slide

The Cha Cha Slide first made its appearance when Millennials were in elementary and middle school. Allison Murray, senior elementary education major, said, “I remember going to all of my middle school dances, and the dance wasn’t over until we played that song. Even now going to weddings or formals everyone freaks out when they hear the Cha Cha slide.”


  1. The iPhone

Walking around campus or through a big city, it is likely that there will be more than a few people with their heads down, scrolling through their iPhone. These gadgets have replaced cameras, books, and in some aspects, computers. Not only are adults continuously waiting on the new iPhone to come out, but kids are too. The big debate is no longer #TeamEdward or #TeamJacob, but #TeamiPhone or #TeamAndroid.


  1. Mean Girls

Almost 12 years after the movie Mean Girls premiered, the quote “you can’t sit with us” still rings throughout dining halls and cafeterias everywhere. Senior Rachel Dobrzykowski says, “I think the reason Mean Girls and movies like that mean so much for our generation is because their message grows alongside us. The message is never not applicable.”


  1. Hashtags

Formally known as the pound sign, the hashtag began on Twitter in 2007, and quickly became a symbol used in daily life. From Twitter, to Instagram, to Facebook, hashtags are almost impossible to avoid. Used to group content together on social media, hashtags can be used for campaigns, like #bringbackourgirls, or simply to see what other people are posting under the same hashtag.


  1. High School Musical

Rumors of a High School Musical reunion still circulate around social media outlets seven years after the release of the third movie in the trilogy. Premiering in 2006 when many Millennials were in middle school or high school, High School Musical became a phenomenon. Across the country, Millennials memorized song lyrics and dance moves and anticipated the next movie. Not only were three successful movies produced in the series, but out of the franchise came a concert tour, an ice show, and a wide range of merchandise including school supplies and children’s clothes.


  1. The old Disney Channel

The Disney Channel has evolved over the years, but the network that Millennials came to know and love throughout their childhood was immensely popular and is still referenced when talking about television and their experiences growing up. Some of the network’s most popular shows were Lizzie McGuire, That’s So Raven, and Even Stevens.


  1. The Selfie

Defined as “an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks,” the selfie has become an art form. With the invention of the front camera on smart phones came the multitude of selfies on all forms of social media. In a way, selfies are the 21st century’s self portrait. The only difference is, by taking the photos themselves, Millennials are in control of how they look and how the photos turn out. Selfies have been linked to the need for approval or narcissism, and Estrella Gonzalez, sophomore psychology major agrees, but says “[taking selfies] is such a norm now that you feel like you have to do it.”

You Might Also Like


  • Jill Sordyl says: January 19, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    That’s my girl!!! Good job Hannah.

  • Estrella says: January 27, 2016 at 6:59 pm


  • Leave a reply