Millennial Optimism

I see and hear a lot of folks bashing today’s young people (often called “Millennials”).  Common accusations are that they are lazy, ignorant, and naive.  The principal stereotype is a young man sponging off his parents, living in their basement and playing video games all day.

As with all stereotypes, of course such people exist.  But do they fairly represent the generation as a whole?

Of course as it ages every generation tends to believe the younger generation is less industrious and moral than they were.  As this great post from Laura Grace Weldon shows, that complaint is as old as civilization itself.

I don’t share those negative opinions of the Millennials.  In fact, I have a very high view of the young generation of today.  As a whole they have an idealism and an optimism that holds great promise for the world.

As this post points out, they have a lot going against them.  They’re entering adulthood during very tough economic times.  Finding a job can be extremely difficult.  They’re often saddled with student loans they can’t possibly expect to pay back on the salaries they’re capable of earning.  They’re delaying marriage, delaying buying homes, delaying having children.  They’re inheriting a lot of mess caused by my generation’s overconsumption.

Yet as a group they’re optimistic about the future.  And best of all, they’re anxious to be a part of making the world a better place.  As the blog puts it:

Young people today seek a life of meaning and believe they can change the world. 87% of Millennials in the U.S. surveyed by Barna said they want to find a life full of meaning. Another study by Telefonica found that 52% of U.S. Millennials believe they can make a global difference. Many delay higher-paying jobs to work for Teach for America or the Peace Corps, and corporate giants like IBM know that if they want to attract Millennials, they need to make it clear they’re “in the business of making the world work better.”

Lots of young people are taking up sustainable farming, for example, knowing they’ll never have much money but preferring that life to one spent climbing the corporate ladder and keeping up with the Joneses.  As a whole, they’re more likely than older generations to eat ethically and see the big picture when choosing their food.  Of course that’s just one of many ways the idealism of the younger generation is reflected in the way they live.

So while I continue to hear how our culture is doomed thanks to the supposed immorality and laziness of the Millennials, I’m not buying it.  I’m a fan. I’m grateful for the young people of today and I see a bright future ahead of them.