How the young people of today will leave their mark on the world
Much has been written and subsequently added to the hallowed halls of American lore about the generations of the twentieth century. The GI generation, that which fought the Second World War, the Silent generation of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the Baby Boomer generation, and Generation X have each encountered unique environments within which to build livelihoods. The Millennial Generation (those born between 1980 and 2000) has had an incredibly different upbringing which has descriptions ranging from “entitled” to “incredibly beneficial” to “ruinous.”
What is clear is that each generation has an indelible effect on the next. To that end, the generation currently coming of age and entering the workforce possesses skills and traits given to them through the efforts of those who came before them. They have also, interestingly enough, inherited the unresolved struggles and fabricated economic and political problems of older generations.
Millennials were overwhelmingly raised by parents from both the Baby Boomers and Generation X. This means to the careful observer that the struggles encountered by those respective generations have been transferred through parenting practices to the next set of children.
Millennials have lived rigorously scheduled lives. They have spent countless hours in AYSO soccer leagues (along with a laundry list of other “time-filling” activities), receiving useless trophies for participation, always being told that they are worth something, that success does not necessarily translate into a personal sense of worth.
The parents of millennials, especially those belonging to the Baby Boomers, largely adopted a practice of “helicopter parenting” wherein children were micromanaged. An interesting phenomenon to be observed on the other hand of this is the tendency among Generation X parents (many of whom were single parents) to use the television as a babysitter.
This is truly an interestingly composed group. It is almost equal parts those who were over-protected and those who were left to absorb a reality through any media available. What comes out the other end of the sausage machine is a product that may, indeed, yield a great amount of value in the years to come.
Every generation has had some defining moment which bound its members together. For instance, the defining event of the Boomer generation was the assassination of president John F. Kennedy in 1963. Millennials, likewise (along with some members of the GI, Silent, Boomer, and X generations), share the binding event of 9/11.
Millennials grew up in a world framed by the “war on terror.” They have been told since grade school that there are bad men out to get them. They have been systematically pumped with fear for over a decade.
What has grown out of this, however, seems to be a prevalent distrust of entrenched governmental institutions. Studies show that the average Millennial is likely to be socially progressive and far less likely to identify with a political group (although if they do they tend to self-identify as Democrats).
The Millennial generation has been called “Generation Me” by many critics. The root of this is a belief among those of older generations that the prevalence of social media and the radical upsurge in present technology over the past few decades as a bad thing. Millennials are shown to be narcissistic and completely irresponsible.
In reality, Millennials are more socially connected than any past generation could have hoped to be. Constant multi-tasking frames the world of the Millennial, and in this sense these individuals make highly flexible employees capable of coping with a large variety of challenges.
What is clear about this generation is a very real connection to (and to a great extent a reliance on) technology. Where in the past, knowledge existed in finite areas such as libraries, now individuals around the world are able to access nearly all information that exists through the use of the internet. The conversational phrase “I don’t know” has now been replaced by “I’ll look it up.” In short, it is unacceptable to not know a piece of information in today’s day and age.
In fact, one huge difference between Millennials and previous generations is that of an internet-saturated environment. The Millennial generation will have been the first group of humans to have been (in one form or another) raised with the internet. Though some may see this as only manifesting itself as an addiction to social media and smartphones, much more lies beneath the surface.
It is true that the average Millennial may, indeed, be constantly plugged in. On the other hand there is an abundance of electronically based activity that can translate into much real-world efficiency. These are the skills which will become more and more vital as society becomes increasingly electronic and computerized.
Millennials have spent days of their lives (literally hundreds of hours) playing in the virtual environments of video games. Through this they have developed a very close relationship with computers. Future technology (especially drone technology) which exists only in its infancy now, will require a generation accustomed to controlling advanced machines on a day-to-day basis.
Another quite prevalent aspect of most Millennials is a lack of necessity for stable, long-track employment. This indicates to the keen observer that Millennials are very much interested in being satisfied with the work that they are doing. This may also indicate, as with the previous example from technology, that Millennials may make very flexible employees, capable of quickly adjusting to new work environments. The experience of watching parents and/or older family members possibly working an entire lifetime at a job which they hate just to put food on the table has certainly had a lasting effect on this generation. Millennials will most definitely sacrifice luxury for happiness.
Herein lies the true Millennial response to those that call them “entitled.” Where previous generations did not have the technology that Millennials do, they did, in fact, live lives of relative luxury. Jobs paid more when adjusted for inflation in the 1960s than they do now, college was also much cheaper. These variables add up to show that no generation is free from struggle.
In addition to this, the Millennial generation is poised to be one of the most racially and ethnically diverse in history. Millennials also tend much more towards atheism and agnosticism than previous generations (this may have come about as a result of more prevalent and higher quality schooling).
Millennials have spent years watching the negative results of divorces, and, thus, tend to marry later on. This, of course, also stems from economic variables inherited from the last several generations. In this category also sits the so-called “arrested development” syndrome, wherein Millennials, in contrast to previous generations tend to take longer to “launch” from home life (generally around age 25). This can be seen partially as a direct result of the “helicopter,” over-protective parenting of the Baby Boomers coupled with a relatively hostile employment environment which exists as a testament to systematic indulgence in the profitable American system of the past.
This may, then, also be a framing factor with respect to Millennial entry into the modern workplace, wherein highly educated individuals have gradually begun to graduate from four year institutions and are not necessarily finding the employment market to be a friendly place. They feel that their skills and knowledge are valuable, however it seems as if the markets for them are not yet invented or are somehow dissatisfying in other ways.
Millennials also make up the most educated generation of humans that has ever been produced to date. The mandatory public schooling system in the western world coupled with many of the educational reforms made during the era of the Boomers has acted to create this.
How will the Millennials make their mark on the next century? Many variables necessarily remain to be decided, however the behavioral demographics of this generation indicate that a very different future lies ahead for the western world.
A world in which artificial intelligence, computerization, and the development of space may, indeed, hold center stage is the one in which these individuals will flourish. Current trends seem to show that this is where the human race is headed.
In short, the Millennials compose a generation that has been bred for tasks which may or may not exist yet. The challenges that they will face will be radically different from those in the past. It is likely that the sweeping social media movements of the near future must be led by those who have been reared in the virtual world.
Millennials have been called many things. In all honesty “YOLO” (you only live once) culture may, indeed, represent some of the criticisms leveled at these individuals, specifically that they are not capable of being responsible human beings. This is a small portion of a much larger generation and those who are capable will surely rise to the surface.
The preservation of culture is one thing that exists deeply within Millennials. Individuals who have been branded “hipsters” tend towards hobbies (often craft-oriented) which are often seen as useless. They brew their own beer, make their own clothes, and are generally musically talented in one way or another.
While these individuals have often been criticized as being members of a passing fad, so, too, have movements (like the hippies of the 1960s) been seen as such. Every generation must have its means of expression. For Millennials this consists in a rejection of the mainstream, plastic culture that has been manufactured for them by a system which feeds off of constant consumption.
As time goes on, however, Millennials will become a larger and larger part of active society. This will undoubtedly bring myriad changes politically, socially, and economically. The next generation is coming into its place and those in power must recognize its capacity for social mobilization. Millennials sit on the edge of an unexplored technological precipice, and they, more than any other group, have been trained since birth to navigate its depths toward a brighter, better future.