I graduated in the year 2000 (In the Year Two Thousaaaaaaand). This means I am on the cusp of the generation we have self-titled “The Millennials.” According to Wikipedia and 24% of Millennials (which is like saying the same thing twice) “technology use” is by far our generation’s defining characteristic.
(Note: Unless otherwise attributed, the charts in this post are taken from the Pew Research study “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.” Published February 2010. An excellent free read!)
So as the leading edge of the Millennial generation begin to celebrate our 30th birthdays, what lessons can we share with the previous generations about how our lives are improved by our distinctively intense “technology use”?
Millennial Modo #1: Don’t just adapt, adopt.
Millennials don’t just adapt to new technologies, we embrace them with fervor:
As with most things, the benefits you get out of technology depend on the efforts you invest in using that technology. With 75% of Millennials on social media and 55% of those users checking those profiles at least once a day it can’t be denied that staying connected is part of our generational identity. Rather than being distracted and distant as some feared we would become, we’re a generation known for our ability to multi-task and work with a team. So get in there, fire up your iPhone, your laptop, your Crackberry, and use technology. You will get faster and more efficient, you will meet more people and find better, newer ways to use the technology to improve your daily life.
Millennial Modo #2: Embrace the Observer Effect
As stated above, Millennial’s lives are an open (Face)book. The downside of this: I can’t name a single person my age that I couldn’t locate an unattractive photo of them looking intoxicated (or worse) in less than 5 minutes. From Michael Phelps to our own Fickr accounts, photographic evidence of my generation’s “finest moments” are plastered across 500 million Facebook walls.
So you may be asking, “What upside could outweigh that downside?” Here are what I see as three huge benefits of the near constant observation my generation has and continues to endure:
1. More Moderation: The old ”nobody knows you’re a dog“ adage couldn’t be less true for our generation. As Facebook photo tagging and (potentially scary) image search advances like Google Goggles make it harder and harder to hide our behavior, Millennials have accepted the fact that we are always observed – by our friends’ cell phone cameras, by our credit card companies, even our search engines. It’s not surprising that our generation is more likely than the previous two generations to respond well to structure and rules – shortly after the first coach suspended the first players due to drunken Facebook pics, we’ve had to impose rules on ourselves. Lord knows we aren’t going to stay home from the party, or take less photos – we just had to learn to either practice moderation, practice pulling it together for the camera or at least practice pulling our hung-over selves to work the next day since the boss would be all too aware of the root cause of our ”sick day.“
2. More Tolerance: Millennials have an almost constant connection to a wider and more diverse America (and world) than any generation before us. We are more racially diverse than previous generations and significantly more welcoming of immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community. Also, more than any generation before us, we are and I think we will continue to be, forgiving of the indiscretions of others. With all of those photos and videos of us at 20 floating in cyberspace for the rest of our lives, it will be too easy for our friends (or our children) to call shinanigans when we start getting too high up on our high horses. However, this tolerance doesn’t really extend to hypocrisy…
3. More Honesty: As any good parent knows, the less you let your kids get away with, the less they will attempt to act out. Millennials can’t get away with anything – those darn camera phones, GPS check ins and general lack of privacy get us caught every time. I’m not sure this means we have less tendencies to ”sin” than previous generations – we are still human after all. However, rather than pushing misbehavior underground like the Boomers, or ignoring the rules like Gen X, I think we’ll just make the rulebook our own. I predict in the next 30 years you’ll see the legalization of many currently illegal practices such as drug use and prostitution as an attempt to control these practices through honestly confronting them, rather than driving them underground. I think open marriages will become more accepted and prevalent as adultery becomes almost impossible to hide. And I predict in politics, hypocrisy will become an offense in the public’s eyes that is worse than any law breaking. As the popularity of programs like The Daily Show among our demographic demonstrate, Millennials love to lambast a hypocrite.
“Support for legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use is nearly twice as high among young adults (57 percent of those under 30) as seniors (30 percent), with middle-aged Americans split about evenly.” (source: http://whatareyoulookingatpolitics.blogspot.com/2009/04/how-millennials-are-shifting-american.html)
Millennial Modo #3: Take your news with a side of humor.
And speaking of lambasting hypocrites, a PewResearch study conducted during the 2004 election season found that “one-in-five [Millennials] say they regularly get campaign news from the Internet, and about as many (21%) say the same about comedy shows such as Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show. For Americans under 30, these comedy shows are now mentioned almost as frequently as newspapers and evening network news programs as regular sources for election news.“
And the Daily Show seems to be an excellent place to get one’s political news as regular audiences of the show score quit high in Pew’s survey of people’s political knowledge:
Pew states that ””The Daily Show” performs a function that is close to journalistic in nature — getting people to think critically about the public square.“ I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think I’m speaking just for myself when I say Millennials want to stay informed while keeping things in perspective.
Millennial Modo #4: Tap into the collective consciousness.
As a new mother I find myself constantly turning to my fellow ”FB Mommies.“ At least once a month I post a question on my status update along the lines of ”Are there drawbacks to only bottle feeding?“ (There are.) ”Should I worry about my baby’s dandruff?“ (I shouldn’t.) ”Isn’t my nursery cute?“ (It is!) The insta-support and access to the mommy knowledge base is invaluable as I embark on this new part of my life. I see this Facebook ”crowdsourcing“ as our generation’s answer to the issues that crop up when young people regularly move hundreds of miles away from their hometown and the support of their extended families.
Though I personally prefer Facebook where I can get the advice of people I know and love, Twitter is becoming a very common resource for this sort of practice for both people’s professional and personal lives. I often share this anecdote from an awesome 2008 New York Time Article:
Laura Fitton, a social-media consultant who has become a minor celebrity on Twitter — she has more than 5,300 followers — recently discovered to her horror that her accountant had made an error in filing last year’s taxes. She went to Twitter, wrote a tiny note explaining her problem, and within 10 minutes her online audience had provided leads to lawyers and better accountants. Fritton joked to me that she no longer buys anything worth more than $50 without quickly checking it with her Twitter network.
“I outsource my entire life,” she said. “I can solve any problem on Twitter in six minutes.”
Millennial Modo #5: Call Your Mother (or at least message her)
And one final Millennial tip I thought I’d share as Father’s Day approaches…. honor thy mother and thy father. Only 9% of Millennials say they have serious disagreements with their parents, compared to 19% of those ages 30+ who said the same (Pew Study 2010). Facebook is an essential communication tool for my parents, in-laws, extended family and me, more than ever now since the recent birth of my daughter and subsequent flood of photos and videos.
Additional Millennial factoids from:
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