McKenna is the mother of two millennial sons and the aunt to a dozen millennial nieces and nephews who all give her hope for the future.
Millennials Are Easy Targets
- Conservative pundits dismissively dub them "snowflakes."
- Corporate America blames them for the demise of shopping malls, the failure of mid-range family restaurants, and the decline in motorcycle sales.
- Late-night comics poke fun at their addiction to Facebook and Smartphones and their fondness for avocado toast and quinoa.
Yet, while millennials are an easy target of the media, they're actually changing the world for the better in many significant ways and should be lauded for it.
Negative Coverage From the Media
I recently read an article with the headline: Applebee's Gives Up Trying to Woo Millennials.
It went on to explain how executives at this mid-range restaurant chain made big changes to their menu, hoping to attract younger diners especially millennials. Ultimately, though, their efforts failed, they got frustrated, and they abandoned their mission.
Another recent headline read: Shopping Malls Across the Country Closing As Millennials Choose to Buy Online.
This article blamed the millennial generation (those born in the early 1980's to the early 2000's) for yet dramatic change in America's shopping habits.
In fact, the more I paid attention to the media coverage, the more I heard millennials getting treated as scapegoats, fall guys, and punching bags for everything under the sun.
As the mother of two sons and an aunt to a dozen nieces and nephews who fall in the millennial demographic, I want to stand up for these young people. The ones I know are kind, open-minded, hard working, and concerned about the environment. They make me hopeful about the future of our planet.
With this in mind, here are seven ways millennials are making the world better in significant ways.
1. They Support the LGBT Community
When my then 18-year-old son told me he was gay, I was concerned that his long-time buddies would turn their backs on him.
That certainly would have been the case when I was in high school back in the 1970's. A guy wouldn't want to associate with someone who was queer, fearing others would think he was, too.
But a whole lot has changed since then, and all my son's friendships remain intact and him being gay is no big deal among his peers.
According to a GenForward survey, young Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of the LGBT community. Results showed that 92 percent back HIV and AIDS prevention, 90 percent back LGBT employment equality, and 80 percent back LGBT adoption.
2. They're Vegan to Save the Planet
When I was growing up in the Bay Area during the 1970's, I knew some hippies who were vegetarians but people considered it pretty "out there." Back then, most folks were still consuming a meat and potatoes kind of diet. At that time, I don't remember anyone declaring themselves vegan.
Today, though, more young people like my sons and their friends are choosing a diet void of animals and animal products: no meat, no dairy, no eggs, no fish, and no honey. They don't buy clothes made of fur, leather, wool, and silk.
Studies show veganism is on the rise in many western countries, especially among their millennial populations.
Some choose it for health reasons, citing statistics that show it's associated with a lowered risk of cancer (colon, prostate, and breast), heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Others go vegan for environmental reasons, knowing animal agriculture is the leading cause of CO2 emissions, deforestation, and polluted waterways.
Still others like my sons opt for a vegan diet because they believe passionately in animal rights and want to protect earth's creatures from harm.
3. They're Spiritual, Not Religious
According to the Pew Research Center, millennials are less outwardly religious than previous generations. One in four claim no religious affiliation at all.
Over 35 percent of them are classified as nones, a term that encompasses atheists, agnostics, and those who say their religion is “nothing in particular.”
They're more skeptical of organized religion than previous generations and are more likely to be drawn to non-religious spiritual alternatives such as Wicca (witchcraft) and astrology.
When attending Catholic schools during the 1970's, my classmates and I got drilled on the ten commandments, were tested on the sacraments, and were required to recite dozens of prayers by rote. Our parents placed priests and nuns on a pedestal and never questioned their supreme authority and complete holiness.
But over the past two decades, scandals about priests molesting children have made headlines around the world. In many of these cases, it was revealed the church leadership knew about the abusive behavior and did little or nothing to stop it.
These revelations made millennials wary of joining established religions. Many prefer spiritual practices that require no membership, involve solitude, and meet their unique needs such as meditating, chanting, fasting, doing yoga, and spending time in nature.
4. They Reject Political Labels
In addition to rejecting religious affiliation, millennials are less likely to pledge allegiance to a particular political party.The Pew Research Center says the millennial generation is one of the most independently minded in recent history.
When I was growing up, my parents and my friends' parents neatly divided themselves into two groups—either Republican or Democrat— and voted according to party lines. Their political beliefs were greatly influenced by their religion. My mother, for example, was a devout Catholic and a single-issue voter, only choosing to support politicians who were pro-life.
Many millennials, though, see little difference between the two political parties and are wary of both. Over half of them identify as neither Republican nor Democrat.
5. They Prefer Adventures Over Stuff
When my peers and I graduated from college, we acquired the trappings of adulthood: buying a car, purchasing a home, having a family, and settling down to domestic bliss. Many of us led a life of "keeping up with the Joneses," obtaining whatever our neighbors had—a new lawnmower, pool table, or big screen TV—so we, too, looked successful.
Millennials, though, fueled by their love of posting photos on social media, enjoy spending money on experiences rather than objects. They like picture-perfect adventures such as attending concerts and shows, taking exotic trips, skydiving, and visiting national landmarks.
A study by the Harris group found 72 percent of millennials prefer using their hard-earned cash on experiences rather than material things.
6. They're Choosing to Remain Childless
Previous generations were told it was their duty to go forth and populate the earth. To not have kids was considered odd and selfish. Unfortunately, this led to many children being born to parents who were unsuited for the job.
My father, for instance, was a man who had no affinity for youngsters but wound up with four of them. Because he married a Catholic woman who adhered to the church's teachings against birth control, he became a reluctant father who hated family life and made life hell for us.
Thankfully, millennials are much more thoughtful and deliberate about choosing to have children or not.
With over 7 billion people on the planet and a multitude of problems caused by overpopulation, many young people are deciding not to have babies.
In a recent study, Professor Stewart Friedman found students graduating from college who plan on having kids has gone down by half in just two decades.
With global warming, terrorism, disease, political divisiveness, overcrowding, traffic, soaring home prices, and the threat of nuclear war, many young people believe the world today is not a hospitable place for youngsters.
Some millennials are struggling to pay off student debt and make ends meet.
Some are focused on their careers and don't want to struggle with balancing family and jobs like their parents did.
Some want to focus their efforts on improving the world rather than adding to its problems.
Still, others realize they're too self-centered or ill-equipped to have kids and are more honest about that than previous generations.
7. They Have a Social Conscience
In the past, people gave to charitable causes primarily through their churches. Today, though, millennials expect the businesses they patronize to practice “corporate kindness.”
Because social media makes everything transparent, young people are keenly aware of which companies contribute to the less fortunate and which do not.
Ben & Jerry's, Starbucks, Whole Foods, and Panera have all gained stellar reputations for not only selling quality products but giving back to the community and being environmentally friendly. Millennials are more likely to frequent these businesses and talk enthusiastically about them to family and friends.
The video below explains the millennial generation and compares it to the ones that preceded it.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 McKenna Meyers