Who You Calling Lazy?
Type “Millennial” into the Google search bar, and you get headlines including, “America Lost the Millennials,” “The Problem with Millennials”, “This Is How Millennials View Work,” and one of my favorites “” “Are Millennials to Blame for Stores Being Open on Thanksgiving?” The term Millennial has been thrown around in recent years when referring to anyone born after 1980 up until around 2000, though some believe today’s babies are still Millennials. In other words, we are the children of the Baby Boomers. We are the generation that grew up with technology that gave us the ability to communicate with each other instantly at a time in our lives when we needed it most. We are also the generation that lived through 9/11 at a young age and grew accustomed to tight airport security along with a growing awareness toward activities in other parts of the world.
It’s true that those things define us because they really happened. But there are also several other things that only happened to some of us and several that didn’t happen to me. I was fortunate to attend college and graduate debt free, but a lot of my friends graduated with at least some debt.
Some worked more than one job while taking a full course load. I never met anyone who assumed his or her debt would be completely forgiven. And I also don’t buy the line about us having more debt than any other generation. Are we forgetting the more than 7 million veterans who grew up during the Great Depression and were able to receive an education courtesy of the GI Bill?
Then there are the claims about Millennials being less civically engaged than our parents. I would be interested to know how they came to this conclusion. Is it because we didn’t participate in mass protests or sing freedom songs around a campfire? In 9 th grade I completed monthly assignments for my Civics and Economics class that took me to museums, book lectures and other public affairs events. And at the Winston-Salem City Council meeting Monday night, the room was filled with high school and college students who were there being recognized for being part of the city’s youth and college advisory councils. And yes, the youth voter turnout for this year’s election was less than half of what it was for the last two presidential elections, which were up near 50 percent. But that statistic is in keeping with practically every midterm election, which traditionally sees lower turnout altogether. And for the record, I voted. The youth vote is not going away. We’ll be back come 2016.
Millennials are commonly referred to as the “me generation.” There might actually be something to this. The benefits of technology that I mentioned earlier have also come with a heavy price tag. More mobile devices means less time spent in deep thought and reflection “” something I think we all could use every so often. Despite my contemplative nature I admit to pulling out my phone in situations where I had absolutely no desire to use it, but felt the need to look like I was busy either because everyone else around me was doing it or because it was the only socially acceptable behavior in an awkward situation. And when given a choice between calling someone to communicate a quick message and texting, I usually go with the latter. Another category I match up with is the “public transit over driving” camp. This is a combination of my love for trains and my genuine concern for the safety and well-being of everyone trying to get to their destination. Perhaps this is not representative though since it mostly takes into account people who live in urban areas where commuting to work is no better than walking on a rickety bridge above a pool of boiling lava.
You would probably need to get 100 people in a room between the ages of 18 and 35 to get a truly representative sample of what Millennials want. And even if you did, it might be dramatically different from anything those headlines or I told you. So why do people spend their time studying this stuff? Well, it’s interesting. People are curious how the next generation will change the world. How will our beliefs and values be different from our parents? How will communication change? One of our guys, Mark Zuckerberg, has already partially answered those questions.
To quote the Onion, “Stereotypes are a real time saver.” If you can find someone born in a generation that we’re not even sure has ended yet, which meets all of the criteria pundits have given it, I might buy you dinner. By now isn’t it a given that older generations will always cast a judgmental eye on the generation below it? Wait, I’m stereotyping. guess I’m part of the problem too. !