I have been reading a lot about Millennials lately. I am a Boomer parent who raised Millennial children, so this topic is very interesting to me.
The Millennials, people born between 1980 and 2000, grew up during the biggest communication transformation in the history of the world; the internet, email, cell phones, texting, Facebook, Google, all came to age in their lifetimes. Now, as these Millenials leave college, they see the world through a very different lens.
We Boomers emerged from college determined to use “our 20’s” to settle down. We got married, started raising our 2.2 kids; found that house in the suburbs and established ourselves in careers that would be tattooed on our souls for eternity.
Most Millennials are happy to treat their first decade of adulthood as a cultural experiment.Their idea of “settling down” is different as they know that they are likely to change jobs, maybe even careers, many times and they are less likely to get their identity from their jobs.
Middle-age people have, throughout history, looked at the younger generation and seen signs of societal decay. It would be easy for us boomers to take the same stance. Are these Millennials prepared to run “our world”?
Certainly there are some millennial traits that give us Boomers great pause: Millennials text during our dinner conversations; they rarely read newspapers; they refuse to use voice mail and they rapidly bounce from idea to idea.
On the other hand, Millennials have a more global view; are more tolerant of the differences of others; are less inclined to worry about status; are less obsessed with work and are more aware of their obligation to take care of our world.
No doubt the hallmark of this new world is the speed and abundance of information. Will that help us make better connections or keep us apart from each other? I think it is too early to tell. Certainly, these new communication tools can, if we allow them, take us farther away from the face to face human contact that is so crucial to meaningful human connections. At the same time, many of us have already seen how these new ways of reaching out can help us learn more about each other so that, when we do sit down together, we can make deeper connections.
One thing I truly appreciate is that the wide open world of endless communication has forced our children to be more honest. In the Boomer days, I could segregate my world so that I could wear one mask at work; another one with friends and still another face with my relatives. Now, with social media all around me, I am forced to be the same person for all people. This blog; my Facebook posts; and almost all of my truly public declarations are out there for the world to see. Scary? Absolutely. But, probably more honest.
No doubt I will, for the rest of my life, occasionally lament the passing of these “simpler times”. But I hope I will not let my geezer sentimentality blind me from the opportunities that the Millennial world provides.
In either case, we cannot turn back the clock. In the words of one of our great Boomers:
We better start swimming or we’ll sink like a stone; for the times they are a changing.