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Alex Scrivner | Contributing Writer

The era of the millennial generation is overwhelming to its predecessors, peaking with a population of 80 million. The millennials, typically inclusive of individuals born between 1980 and 2000, are the largest generation in history and their intentions as well as their developing habits are hotly debated (more so by boomers and Gen Xers than millennials themselves). With technology connecting this generation like no other, the rest of the world awaits anxiously as a social media-driven youth aspires to leave its impact for the next generations to come. The millennials are not only pivotal for the future but also have an ever-growing significance for the current political and economic status. The argument can be broken down and polarized into seeing the millennial generation as “generation me” or “generation we” (following the trend set by author Jean Twenge in Generation Me). Of course, the conversations of how the millennials are radical in their impact on the world or merely a continuation of a trend are taking place outside of the generations’ momentum. This article aspires to present the two sides of the ongoing discussion. However, if you yourself are a millennial, chances are you won’t align with either—why pick one, right?

“Generation Me”

The big idea is that this generation is increasingly more narcissistic and less empathetic than any other generation prior. Also, this generation places more value on matters of material and extrinsic worth and relies on themselves and their own ingenuity more than any of their predecessors.

  • 58 percent of college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982
  • 60 percent of youth believe that their guiding morality will be what they feel is right in any given circumstance
  • 44 percent of millennials are willing to endorse products or services through social media in exchange for rewards
  • 27 percent of millennials are already self-employed 54 percent either want to start a business or already have started one
  • 59 percent of executive decision-makers and 62 percent of higher education authorities rate recent college graduates a C grade or lower for preparedness in their first jobs
  • Adult members of generation Y have been found to be the most averse to working long hours, preferring a more flexible approach to the working day
  • It is estimated that only 5 percent of Generation Y adults do not own a mobile phone, and even fewer do not own a computer.
  • 41 percent are satisfied with the way things are going in the country
  • Millennials found that becoming involved in pro- grams to clean up the environment were less important in comparison to previous generations
  • Compared to boomers, millennials were less likely
to have donated to charities, less likely to want a job worthwhile to society or that would help others, and less likely to agree they would eat differently if it meant more food for the starving. They were also less likely to want to work in a social service organization or become a social worker, and were less likely to ex- press empathy for outgroups

 

“Generation We”

The big idea here is that this generation is community-oriented and altruistic. Members generally feel responsible on a personal level for the well-being of the world and the people in it. With this they are also a generation that is more accepting of all peoples in society due to their enhanced global awareness following technological advances.

  • 61 percent of millennials feel a personal responsibility to make a difference in helping the state of the world
  • 45 percent favor preferential treatment to improve the position of minorities
  • 42 percent of millennials think that “our current economic problems show what happens when you rely too much on the market and reduce regulations on corporations”
  • Approximately 65 percent of Generation Y (millennials) says that it supports same-sex marriage
  • 47 percent are more tolerant of races and groups than older generations
  • 49 percent of people ages 18-29 said they have a positive view of socialism and only 43 percent say they have a negative view

In your opinion do you find that you are a part of a “me” generation or a “we” generation?

 

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Sklyar Snider, senior music major, Generation Y

“My first instinct is to say that our generation is a ‘we’ generation. And after reading the definitions of the ‘we’ and ‘me’ generations I would go even further and say that not only is our generation a ‘we’ generation but previous generations, our parents’ generation, the baby boomers was a ‘me’ generation. But you can find anything you look for everywhere you look. For example the counter culture revolutions of the 60s are more often thought of with ‘we’ generation characteristics. But again that was the ‘counter culture’ not the norm. The same could be said for our generation. The people that I know or the people I choose to surround myself with characterize the ‘we’ generation. And while there may be a lot of people of our generation that are more ‘we’ than ‘me’ there’s also a lot of narcissists too. Just like APU may not be a party school but you can still find a party and everything that goes with it if you look for it, or you could just throw one yourself. I don’t think you can characterize so many people, an entire generation, in such narrow terms. The language people use has a funny way of affecting reality. Worse than a prophecy is a self fulfilling prophecy. If you’re not careful you could trap people in the expectations you have of them. You could trap yourself. But if you must define an entire generation at least wait until the next one shows up and you can judge them by their fruits. Descriptions are usually more accurate after the thing has occurred, not before. And don’t forget that the current generation was raised by the previous. But frankly, if I can only directly control my own actions, why should I give a care about characterizing other people or how they characterize others? Let me work out my own character before you give me one. In the words of John Hughes ‘we accept whatever it is that we did wrong . . . but we think you’re crazy making us tell you who we think we are, what do you care? You see us how you want to see us . . . in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions.’”

 

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Michelle Rao, senior global studies major, Generation Y

“I think our generation is certainly a ‘we’ generation in the sense that we are becoming more aware and involved with issues happening globally. However this doesn’t necessarily constitute for the fact that our generation is not a ‘we’ generation when it comes down to the word ‘community.’ Our generation focuses so much on helping everyone globally that we lose ourselves in the community aspect locally. Certainly I think every generation has been or still are part of the ‘me’ generation where the focus is solely based on oneself and the desire to step on anyone’s toes to get where they have to. But I certainly do think that our generation is becoming a ‘we’ generation. Slowly but surely.”

 

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Richard Slimback, Professor of global studies, sociology and TESOL , baby boomer generation

“The idea that ‘all millennials are apathetic’ is sheer nonsense. Most of the students I have the privilege of working with have high ideals and a strong commitment to those ideals and values. But they also know that their ideals must be actionable. Whereas many in my generation wanted revolution, activist students today prefer evolution— small, steady, scalable, and incremental steps in the direction of their vision. Few identify themselves as ‘radicals’; fewer still advocate an overturning of ‘the system.’ Sure, some are ‘slacktivists’—unwilling to push companies like Apple and Starbucks to be more socially responsible, yet willing to Facebook and Twitter all hours of the day. Thomas Freidman may be factually correct in claiming that ‘Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy didn’t change the world by asking people to join their Facebook crusades.’ But it may also be true that the old strategies of activism and resistance don’t work in today’s technological environment. Looking at Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, a blending of online and offline tactics helped to scale these grassroots movements.”