It seems today that anywhere you turn, people are constantly throwing around the word ‘Millennial,” and are subsequently trying to understand us, trying to define who we are, and trying to tell us what we are not.
According to older generations, the millennial generation is viewed as being a sect of society that is entitled, lazy, selfish, and arrogant. I will argue, however, that rather than being any of these things, we as a generation are mostly misunderstood because they haven’t seen anything like us before, and we no longer fit inside the old paradigm structures; we’re the new 60s generation, only we have the Internet.
As more and more of us are beginning to enter the workforce and are increasingly becoming contributing members of society, it’s clear that we are making waves and that we are not a force not to be reckoned with. Older generations ought to take notes, because this is only the beginning and we’re not going anywhere.
The American Dream has long been the notion that with hard work and determination, anybody could see their dreams become reality; the problem, however, is that while the American Dream might certainly attainable for some, for the vast majority of Americans in previous generations, it’s been a false sense of hope and promise.
Generations of Americans have broken their backs with hard work to build this country into what it is, often to waste their lives away in jobs that did not give them a sense of fulfillment nor paid nearly enough to raise them out of their economic status. Hard work and determination in many cases did not equate with a reality of improved circumstances.
The American Dream became the 1950s notion that you were successful and had attained the dream if you had a job, were married, had kids, owned a car, and lived in the cozy suburbs; if you ask me, what kind of dream is that?! What happened to real dreams that reached for the stars? And when did we all agree to adopt the same, narrow vision of what constituted a successful life?! What happened to the visionaries? The inventors? The explorers? The artists? When did we all decide that success meant living decades of your life doing the same routine, day after day, reporting for work in an office, behind a desk, in only the types of clothing deemed acceptable? When did the successful life become equated with the ownership of material goods? When did we stop dreaming? When did we stop living? When did we stop embracing overall diversity? When did happiness and fulfillment stop being enough—let alone something we at all aspired to achieve? When did we stop being free? And what happened to the American family?
Suburban living has created a society that has become chained to their debt — in needing to pay for their mortgages, their property taxes, their various insurances, their water, their electric, their heating, and their car payments; we’ve been spending our lives paying to live it.
In these suburban areas, we’ve created a society that lives amongst each other in their partitioned properties, but has largely dissolved an overall sense of community; in most towns across the United States, we hardly even know our neighbors, let alone spend any time with them. Our schools have become a joke, where the aim of education has turned into the performance on an exam rather than the inspiration and cultivation of minds that are curious, that think or that create.
Our children are bored, and because they can’t sit still in a disengaging classroom due to their natural energy and desire to explore the world, they’re being medicated in droves. In many households, a single parent’s income is no longer enough to pay the bills let alone get ahead, forcing many households to send both parents to work, creating an environment where children are not being given the right amount of attention or guidance, nor are they being taught at home what their schools are failing to teach.
The millennial generation has grown up to see a world of unhappy and pessimistic adults who lead uninteresting lives; who have been told since childhood that the many aspects of our world that are in grave need of change will ultimately be up to us to repair; who have long known that we will never benefit from governmental programs like social security, which are in near bankruptcy, even though we have been paying taxes toward them since we could first gain employment; who have witnessed the war on drugs criminalize and jail a large, non violent and often suffering section of society rather than address the underlying problems and get these individuals the help they so desperately need; who have inherited a society that is grossly discriminatory and has yet to reconcile with it’s past; who have grown up to have gender norms shoved down our throats; who have been taught that feelings are unnatural and should not be shared or expressed; and who have been or are leaving college in recession or post-recession years, only to settle for any job that’ll allow us to pay but a small fraction of our insurmountable student loan debt — only to be bored, undervalued, and underpaid. It is only with this backdrop that we might begin to understand the millennial.
As a result of the current circumstances in society, the millennial generation has produced two types of people; those who find it hopeless and drop out of it, and those who use it to drive them to make their own lives and those around them, better. With an education system that serves to neither inspire nor advance the future of many, we find the millennial who drops out of school and further disengages from society—often spending their lives in a virtual reality, or wasting it away in a number of number of other ways. Additionally, because our school systems increasingly do not teach our youth to think, to question or to create, there is a sect of the millennial generation who feeds into the materialistic and superficial world they’ve been brought and propagated into because they simply do not know any better. To this millennial, all life is about is the following of the latest trends, the latest gossip, their number of followers, or the buying the latest ‘must-have’ items. We all know this type of millennial, but rather than seeing them and their lack of drive or interest in things of substance, we should view these individuals as the products of this current environment, and as therefore a societal travesty; they are that way because society has failed them, and has forgotten to let them know that they matter and that they’re capable of something worthwhile.
On the other and more optimistic hand, we have the second type of millennial who takes these societal norms and uses them to challenge what’s accepted and strive for a better tomorrow. To the millennial’s eye, the status quo doesn’t seem like a place that we want to neither feed into nor maintain because it’s not working, it’s broken, and we don’t see the value in it.
With the introduction of the Internet during our development, we’ve been handed the very tool to make that shift out of the status quo possible. In absence of community and connection, we’ve adopted widespread social media usage to fill a void; and whereas those outside the millennial generation might look down toward our obsession with our electronics and our social media presence, and see it as our disengagement from society—they should instead be shocked and impressed by our influence and capacity to forge sweeping change.
Much of America’s youth is becoming informed and getting involved in mass numbers on various social justice campaigns, and as a result, we’ve grown to be an incredibly tolerant and accepting generation; we’ve been demanding social change and justice for all, and we’ve given a voice to the voiceless. That hardly seems selfish.
In less than a decade, people across the globe have signed up to join the social media outlet of their choosing—and in doing so, businesses have been forced to adjust and change—where today it would be simply foolish for a business not to have a social media marketing presence and campaign. That is raw power. We’re seeing the American shopping mall fall vastly in decline and grow largely obsolete because our lives have become about efficiency and ease, and anything our hearts could desire is readily available with the click of a button.
We’re also seeing droves of young people elect to pave their own career path rather than sign up or stay in the same, boring, menial corporate positions, and we’re seeing way more young people pursue their passions then sign away their lives chained to a desk in a job that brings them no sense of satisfaction or fulfillment. Whereas those outside our generation might take these actions as a testament to our laziness or our entitlement or our arrogance, they should see it as aggressive ambition and an unwillingness to settle; shouldn’t these traits be commended? We’ve realized just how possible change can be, and so we’re unwilling to stay put and perpetuate what’s already been established.
We’re bored, we’re smart and we’re capable — so we’re becoming the visionaries, the explorers, the inventors and the artists. With the advancement of technology, we know that work can and should be done efficiently; we’ve grown to work smarter, not harder, and therefore value our time to play and have a life outside of work. We’ve flocked to urban areas, we’re living together, and we’re spending our money increasingly on memories rather than things — we’re traveling the world, we’re going to concerts, and we’re drinking and dining with our friends.
With the divorce rate as high as it’s been, and being that many of the millennial generation are products of broken, unhappy homes, we’re not all rushing to get married, or have babies, or retreat back to the suburbs; instead, we’re living, we’re creating our own identities, and we’re embracing independence. All in all, as a generation, we’re the product of our collective environment, and we sure as hell are making waves; brace yourselves for the ocean of change that is the Millennial revolution that’s to flood the American landscape—it’s bound to be a wild ride.