Marketers, technologists, educationists, politicians, and many others are trying to define the much hyped Millennial generation. Some of their generalizations include, Millennials are: digital natives, religiously unaffiliated, self-centered (perhaps by necessity), supportive of social welfare issues, better educated, demographically diverse, unmarried (and likely living with parents), and optimistic of their future. The Pew Research Center recently published a study called Millennials in Adulthood with some eyebrow raising statistics.
Millennials are digital natives, meaning they were raised with the prevalence of computers and devices, social media, video games, apps, and the Internet. Eighty-one percent on are on Facebook and have a median of 250 friends.
Technology has a major influence on education for a few reasons. First, online learning platforms make personalized and adaptive learning a reality. Second, information is easily accessible to all. (Personally, I think this is huge. I enjoy reading newspapers and journals online. I love searching whenever I confront a subject that interest me.) Third, discussion forums make feedback and social learning possible.
There are issues with technology and learning. Multitasking is a requirement for just about everything Millennials do, but clearly, it disrupts their ability to concentrate and become deeply engaged. Another potential problem is to take shortcuts in gathering information. Why read a respected publication when you can read a summary article? It is extremely easy to do and saves time and money. Finally, newspapers challenge us to think of important issues in the world and our community. Does social media – for many a replacement to news – generate the same kind of intrigue?
Despite being saddled with more student loan debt than any other previous generation and having little assurance social security will be there when they retire, Millennials are notably more optimistic than other generations. A whopping eighty-five percent say they are earning enough now or will in the future. (Significantly higher than any of the other generations).
Many from past generations paid off their student loans within a few years after graduating (the ratio of debt to annual salary was much lower and the cost of living was lower), so it was never really an issue. However, Millennials are confronted with lifelong debt. Where does the optimism come from?
I think it is a generational thing. Millennials are happy as long as they can pay their bills and are socially engaged; many are paying rent and living with parents. Student loans are simply another bill, and like a future mortgage on a home, something Millennials expect to pay for much of their lives. It is nothing more than an accepted reality, so why stress out about it.
Millennials are less religiously affiliated than other generations. Interestingly there is a trickle down effect, where each subsequent generation is less religiously affiliated than the previous one. Twenty-nine percent of Millennials are religiously unaffiliated (thirteen percent higher than the Boomers).
I think access to information enables younger generations to contemplate religion. For example, there is a series of videos on YouTube of Oxford lecturers debating the question on the existence of a God. Probably the only comparable experience from a previous generation is a Humanities course in college where exposure does not occur until someone is in their twenties.
Truth is most Millennials believe there is a God (eighty-six percent), though only fifty-eight percent say they are “absolutely certain” there is one. There are other issues for lack of religious affiliation like getting married and starting a family later in life.
Altogether, I think the biggest reason why Millennials are getting so much attention is because they are digital natives (and few experts accurately predicted how fast technology would influence our lives). Having access to vast amounts of information and being able to communicate instantly in social communities has and will have dramatic implications for generations to come. Biologists are studying the effects on the human brain. Educators are trying to understand the best ways to utilize technology for adaptive learning. Employers are desperately trying to keep up and hiring candidates with the necessary technical skills. The excitement is in trying to figure out where the Millennials are going to take us.
I suggest reading The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown if you want to read a thorough analysis on our current generations.
Original Image Copyright Fotolia #38579952, – silent_47