Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In Defense of Millennials

Contributed by Katie Foley

The other day I read this article and it got me thinking, Are Millennials, or “Generation Y” as this author refers to us, really “going nowhere?”

To prove their point, Mr. and Ms. Buchholz cite the fact that 18 year olds are getting their licenses at a rate 15% lower than their 1980’s counter parts. Also, twice as many young adults were living at home in 2008 compared to 1980, and the likelihood of a young person moving to another state has dropped 40% in the same time frame.

What’s to blame? To start with, the authors blame Facebook. Apparently studies have shown that the more time a young person spends on the internet, the more likely they are to delay getting their driver’s license. We’re more risk adverse, we’re too quick to believe “luck” plays a major role in life’s events and we’re more sedentary. As the authors pointed out, even a decrease in bike sales indicates that we’re literally going nowhere.

So what gives? Are we just too involved with our virtual world to explore the natural world around us? Do we settle for mediocre jobs instead of pursuing our dreams because of an innate laziness we picked up somewhere? Are Millennials complacent?

I don’t think so. The authors talked about every modern American generation through the Baby Boomers, then skipped Generation X. Is Generation Y really the first generation of “why bother?” In my lifetime, I have always known that AIDs existed, that it could infect anyone regardless of sexual preference or promiscuity, and that you could not get it from a toilet seat. I was born into a pre-Google world, but the internet was around by the time I was ready to start browsing. Until recently, there has never been any doubt in my mind that I had a right to use contraception and that women could go just as far professionally as men, even if they weren’t there yet.

But as I grew into adulthood the world around me has all but imploded. A vibrant economy during my adolescence has turned into the “Great Recession.” Home ownership, touted as part and parcel of the American dream, has turned into a nightmare in neighborhoods around the country, as reported on the nightly news. People who cannot understand what a computer network is are trying to draft laws regulating them. Every day we see drug users who are not violent, not lazy and not on the road to a serious and debilitating addiction. On 101.3 Drake sings, “It’s my birthday I’ll get high if I want to,” while AM 1130 is promoting the same “War on Drugs” propaganda that has characterized this  doomed movement from the start.

Millennials understand the value of an open community, an online community of people around the globe that share our interests and vision. It is because young people were able to set up proxy servers faster than the government could find them that videos of the 2009 Iranian uprising made it to our television screens and computer monitors. Some of the greatest modern protest movements have gained recognition, validation and exposure through the use of the internet.

Using today's dollars, the average cost of private college tuition is 3.4 times more expensive, public college tuition is 4 times more expensive, and private law school is 4 1/2 times more expensive now than it was when I was born in 1985. Regardless of whether cars and gas prices are more or less expensive now or then, the cost of college alone has become something young people must consider when developing a life plan.

Perhaps it’s just our priorities that have changed, not our values. Instead of buying $75,000 homes we’re buying $75,000 educations. Rather than spend our limited funds meeting our friends and associates over coffee, we utilize technology in a way that allows us to meet virtually. Maybe we aren’t complacent, maybe we just realize that if we are going to make this country work we better buckle down together and do some problem solving. It’s possible that what the Boomers and Gen Xers don’t fully understand is that “It’s not that we don’t care, we just know that the fight ain’t fair.” [1] Don’t worry, once you’ve finished making a mess of things we’ll swoop in to save the day. 

And stop patronizing us by pretending to be concerned about your legacy. . . 

[1] "Waiting on the World to Change" by John Mayer, lyrics available here

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