Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Selfie of the YOLO Generation

Steven Cromack

“Selfie” is the 2013 word of the year. In many ways, its definition encapsulates the identity of the generation that made it their own. The Millennials are rising. It is important that our teachers, school
administrators, and college professors understand the students who sit before them in their classrooms. Of course, no generation is uniform. Based on the data, however, many Millennials members agree on certain ideas.

Born between 1982 and 2003, we Millennials grew up in a rapidly changing world, and we were—and are—able to capture every moment of it through MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vine. We are called “the Peter Pan” and “Me Generation.” We live by social media and have made it a part of every moment of our lives. According to our elders, we are rude because we cannot look up from our phones; lazy; refuse to grow up; and play too many video games. The Baby Boomers despise our attitudes and insist that because of us the country is going to hell in a hand basket. Our teachers claim that we are a generation of idiots falling behind the rest of the world because of our ability to “txt” and write in single letters—idk—and lament that words like “selfie,” “clutch,” “gucci,” and “swag” have become part of everyday vocabulary.

There are indicators, however, that we just may be the next great generation. In their book Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation Neil Howe and William Strauss outline the unique characteristics of the rising age group. Millennials, they claim, are “unlike any other youth generation in living memory. They are more numerous, more affluent, better educated, and more ethnically diverse . . . and destined to dominate the twenty-first century like today’s fading and ennobled G.I. generation dominated the twentieth” (4-5).

Of all the generations before us, we are the most tolerant and accepting. In a 2005 study 60% of respondents between the ages 15 and 25 agreed with the statement “homosexuality is a way of life and should be accepted by society.” In comparison, of those over 57 surveyed, only 39% agreed with that statement. In a 2002 study 60% of Millennials surveyed believed that “immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents.” In comparison, only 42% of those over 57 agreed with that statement. Many within our generation are independents with liberal inclinations, especially on social and economic issues. With that said, we overwhelmingly loathe the government and want nothing to do with it.

That does not make us selfish, however. On the contrary, we are actually more selfless than the Baby Boomers. Forty-three percent (and rising) of our generation is committed to community service, something within our control. We believe that our future does not lie with the government, but with ourselves.

As one Millennial blogger puts it: “We have been handed the world and it looks awful, and we have never felt so goddamn powerless . . . . The self is the only thing we have. Our own experience is the only thing on which we have complete authority, the only thing over which we have total control.”

Sixteen percent of our generation is unemployed because 58% of managers won't hire us. In the meantime, we are going to live life, and if it means doing so from our parents’ basement, then so be it. Indeed, we have invented the acronym YOLO, or “you only live once.” #noregrets.

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