Events a generation lives through certainly affect that generation’s values. Events like wars, high-profile criminal cases, hostage crisis, environmental disasters, recessions. Oh, and good things too, I suppose, but my Gen X is showing (I’m on the cusp) and I can only think of disastrous stuff.
While I can only think of negative examples, not all negative events have a negative effect on a generation’s values. And, this brings me to the point: Millennials aren’t so bad. At least, they aren’t so bad right now.
A recent study shows that high schoolers graduating in times of recession (like those Millennials who graduated in 2008-2010) are more community-minded and place less emphasis on materialism than students who graduated in 2004-2006. But, what goes up must come down, and during times of economic strength, individualistic values go up and communal values go down. Researchers wonder if this is what will happen with Gen Y’s values.
Are Millennial values more situational than generational? Are these ideas about saving the environment and helping others going to wane as Millennials age unless the recession continues? Well, that’s a pretty bleak outlook, not just for Gen Y, but for humanity at large.
And now my non-scientific Gen Y optimism rears its rainbow-colored head. I think these values, picked up during the formative years, are going to hold strong regardless of economic recovery. Millennials have grown up collaborating for answers and ways to make things better. I don’t think Gen Y can stop being community-minded. We’re confident, connected, open to change and more diverse than any generation before us. Strong networks and interconnectedness are part of how we function, who we are, and I don’t see us using it for evil.
Will Millennials regress into the self-absorbed, distracted, narcissistic, materialistic, entitled generation we’re often accused of being as the economy picks up? I highly doubt it.
What do you think?
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