TIMES Most Influential Teens: Exploring Both Sides of the Same Millennial Coin


Aiyana Hunter, Student, FIMS. OPENWIDE Volume 16 Issue 3

Sometimes we get so caught up in our little university world, that we forget about those out there doing extraordinary things. Some of these people are even younger than we are. These teens can be inspirations to us all, driving us to aspire for things far beyond our scope of imagination or expectations. This is what the TIMES’ annual 30 Most Influential Teens list strives to achieve to acknowledge exceptional teens that have had a positive presence in our society.

The list also acts as a reminder to us all that it is possible to be exceptional, regardless of one’s age or circumstance.

        When this year’s list was released in late October, many critics took to the Internet to disparage some of those featured for being misplaced amongst so many spectacular young social activists, athletes, and entrepreneurs. No one on this list received quite as much backlash as Kylie Jenner, the younger half-sister of the mega-famous Kardashian siblings.

TIME’s itself wrote about their candidate selection process, stating that “to determine TIME’s annual list, we considered accolades across numerous fields, global impact through social media and overall ability to drive news.” Kylie Jenner is certainly known for her almost cult-like social media following and breaking news status, yet still somehow falls victim to constant judgment and ruthless hate.

        Many have pointed out the fact that in the list, Kylie Jenner, 18, falls right after Malala Yousafzadi, 18. Some found it hard to believe that two young women of completely different economic, social, and geographical backgrounds could somehow be linked, especially through a list such as the TIMES’ Most Influential. Hoards of skeptics have argued that Jenner does not belong on the same list as a teenage Nobel Peace Prize winner and advocate for girls’ education, when her call to fame comes from reality TV shows, an abundance of money, and of course, those notorious lip fillers.

        But is it really so hard to believe that these two young women of the same age would both be placed on a list created specifically to feature influential adolescents?

Both teens are the faces of the two separate sides of the same millennial generation.

One stands on the side that is almost religiously concerned with the digital, popular, urban world; and the other, on the more serious side, the side that is unfailingly determined to see their generation on the forefront of real social change.

        We live in an era where social movements are irrevocably combined with social media; where hashtags, Facebook banners, and retweets act as an outlet to inform others of what is happening. Even Malala herself acknowledged the influence of social media when she launched her social media campaign #BooksNotBullets to convince politicians to increase global education funds.

There are those who don’t blink an eye to important, trending world issues, yet are outraged when a social movement activist and social media star are displayed on the same list. People seem to forget that we all have the freedom to be concerned with what interests us, whether it be in the world, our peers, or ourselves, through any outlet that we feel carries our message or captures who we are.

To say that Malala and Kylie cannot both be considered influential is to undermine an entire generation raised during a technological movement, to discredit our abilities to be both thinking, feeling beings, and social media users.

In the words of Jenner herself: “People might have been upset because we were next to, like, young girls who started schools and crazy things. But we’re just different people! We’re influential in different ways, and that’s okay.” And it certainly is. After all, if people are layered, it only makes sense that an entire generation would be, too.

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