7 Ways Millennials Are Making the World Better
- Political pundits snidely call them "snowflakes."
- Corporate America blames them for the decline of shopping malls, family restaurants, golf courses, and motorcycles.
- Late-night comics poke fun at their addiction to Facebook and Smartphones and their fondness for avocado toast and quinoa.
While millennials make for an easy target these days, they are, in fact, changing the world in many positive ways!
I recently read an article with the headline “Applebee's Gives Up Trying to Woo Millennials.” It went on to explain how the restaurant chain had made big changes to its menu with the goal of attracting younger diners but was unsuccessful, got frustrated, and abandoned its efforts. 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 another business failure.
In fact, the more I paid attention to the media the more I heard millennials getting treated as scapegoats, fall guys, and punching bags for everything under the sun and it made me mad. As the mother of two sons and an aunt to a dozen nieces and nephews who fit into the millennial demographic, I want to vouch for these young people who give me hope for the future. Here are seven ways millennials are making the world better.
1. They're Overwhelmingly Supportive of the LGBT Community
When my 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 in tact and 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 Going Vegan to Protect the Planet
While growing up in the Bay Area during the 1970's, vegetarians were considered “hippy-dippy” weirdos while the term “vegan” was largely unknown. Today, however, more young people like my sons and his 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 wear clothes made of fur, leather, wool, and silk. Studies show veganism is on the rise in many western countries, especially among millennials. 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 son opt for a vegan diet because they believe passionately in animal rights and in their duty to protect earth's creatures from harm.
3. They're More Spiritual and Less Religious
According to the Pew Research Center, millennials are the least outwardly religious generation with one in four claiming no religious affiliation at all. Over 35 percent of them are classified as nones, which includes atheists, agnostics, and people who say their religion is “nothing in particular.” They're more skeptical of organized religion than previous generations and more likely to look for non-religious spiritual alternatives such as Wicca (witchcraft) and astrology.
When attending Catholic schools during the 70'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 priests' superiors knew of their abusive behavior and did little or nothing to stop it. Stories such as these make 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 resisting religious affiliation, younger people are passing on allegiance to political parties. 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 as a devout Catholic and a single-issue voter, only choosing to support politicians who were pro-life. Millennials, on the other hand, 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 became adults, we looked ahead to 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. But millennials, fueled by the desire to post photos online, 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 and not 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 end's meat. 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, however, 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. According to the public relations firm, Edelman, 47 percent of consumers in 2012 said they bought at least one brand every month that supported a good cause, a 47 percent increase from 2010.
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© 2017 McKenna Meyers