The Age of the Millennial: Free thinking, Secular, Technologically Obsessed?
While home for Thanksgiving break, UA students ate their fill, caught up on sleep and heard at least one older relative explain what is wrong with this generation. It’s a topic that comes up often at family dinners, and for good reason.
Millennials, or those born after 1980, are different. Millennials grew up with technology, are more educated and are more open to change, according to the Pew Center. It’s also no coincidence that minutes after your grandfather berated this generation for their work ethic, he asked you to fix his computer.
Junior economics major Cory King said the difference between this generation and previous ones is a hot topic at almost all family gatherings. King said older members of his family think our generation is too content to simply accept handouts instead of working harder, but King sees Millennials in a more positive light.
“We’re more aware of problems, domestically and globally,” King said.
King said previous generations have had a lack of critical thinking on important issues, and that bothers him.
“They do things and say, ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it,’” he said.
The attitudes in King’s family align with Pew Research Center’s report on the new generation, “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.” Compared to predecessors, young adults are now more positive, are more liberal and have a stronger self-identity thanks to social media.
It’s no secret Barack Obama was the more popular candidate among young voters in 2008 and again in 2012. Millennials supported Obama by a 2-to-1 margin in 2008, and that support helped carry Obama to re-election earlier this month. This generation is also far less supportive of America’s aggressive foreign policy than previous generations, perhaps due to growing up in a post-Soviet world. Millennials also are more likely to support a more progressive domestic agenda, according to Pew.
King doesn’t necessarily agree that people are more liberal. He thinks that attitudes on certain issues are changing and that people are slightly more liberal. Looking at young adults in the 1960s and 1970s, though, younger people in general are less conservative than their parents. According to a Pew survey, Millennials are perceived to be more tolerant of other races, more open to immigrants and more accepting of nontraditional families.
After childhoods often spent in subdivisions and crowded schools, Millennials like to differentiate themselves from the crowd. The self-expression of Millennials doesn’t limit itself to websites like Facebook and Twitter, either. According to Pew, 40 percent of Millennials have one or more tattoo, 25 percent have a body piercing in someplace other than the ear and 20 percent have posted videos online.
Even coming of age during a harsh recession, Millennials have remained upbeat. Thirty-seven percent of 18- to 29-year-olds are unemployed or have given up looking for work, according to Pew. One out of eight Milliennials have even moved back in with a parent. Many are using the slow economy to further their education, with nearly 40 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college.
The new generation also reflects the changing demographics of the United States. A full 25 percent do not identify with a religion, which is significantly more than previous generations at the same point, according to Pew. Forty-percent grew up in single-parent households. Only around 20 percent of Millennials are married, which is much lower than previous generations. Around 34 percent of Millennials are parents, with many unmarried mothers and fathers.
It may be technology use that marks the biggest difference between generations, though. Seventy-five percent of Millennials have a social media presence. Only 50 percent of Generation X has one, compared to 30 percent of Baby Boomers and 6 percent of the Silent Generation. According to Pew, there are also large gaps in wireless technology use, video game use and online video posting. Millennials are comfortable using gadgets that could only have existed in science fiction novels a few decades ago.
Generations each have a unique identity, and the new one is still forging its own. As expected with generations, the differences are very broad generalizations. It’s hard not to be different, though. Now, those now coming of age have grown up looking at YouTube videos and checking Facebook. Many of us have grown up with the idea that everybody gets a trophy, even for participation. Contrary to the thoughts of Boomers and the Silent Generation, however, everything is not going to hell. People grow up in certain times and under certain circumstances. Kids these days are just different.