That’s right, I’m talking to you, sitting at your work desk scrolling through your now “old-school” iPhone 6, refreshing your news feed, Instagram, and Snapchat an embarrassing number of times in a weird apathetic routine that your brain has, at this point, outsourced to mere muscle memory. Also, I totally know you just favorited that tweet about eating tide pods or ajax or whatever because #lolz. And I know when you get home tonight, you’re going to pour yourself a glass of vino, and proceed to mindlessly swipe through Tinder while binge-watching Black Mirror season 4 and occasionally refreshing Instagram so you can like more photos of your friends’ dogs. You’re doing this all in the name of “self care” but really it’s because you, me, and a majority our generational peers are caught in a self-sabotaging cycle of suppressing our true feelings of anger, frustration, and powerlessness over what’s going on in the world around us. We continue to shove these feelings deeper and deeper into the very bottom of our beings until we’re sufficiently numbed out on soul lidocaine. This is how we’ve come to be labelled as the most cynical generation, ever. And studies have shown, millennials maintain unprecedented levels of mistrust when it comes to politicians, Congress, the U.S. justice system, even the Church has failed many of us.
Of course, we have every right to be the cynical, numbed out, tide pod meme jokesters that we’ve become. We have every right to google as many photos of cute puppies on the Internet as we please. Because if you, like me, were born sometime between 1981 and 1996 (according to Pew Research that’s the age range for millennials), then you know we as a generation have lived through some crazy bullshit. Granted, every generation experiences its share of war, economic fluctuations, and political discord, some more strongly than others. But Generation Y, as we’re often labelled, grew up in this special kind of hell that I don’t think past generations could have predicted. Many of us were just entering junior high or high school when the September 11 terrorist attacks ignited nationwide panic and a subsequently pointless ten-year war, fueled by politically enabled corporate greed. Then, in 2008, the housing market collapsed, plunging the U.S. and much of the world into a global financial crisis that lasted over a decade. We watched as our government flushed billions of dollars in bail-out money into the large investment banks whose corrupt and greed-fueled risky lending actions were the primary reason for the housing collapse. We continued to watch, helplessly, as those same banks took that government bail-out money, our parent’s money, and handed out millions of dollars in bonuses to top executives.
Oh and then in the midst of war and a global financial crisis, enter smartphones and the subsequent rise of social media. While providing us with unparalleled new levels of interconnectivity and power, smartphones also served to overwhelm us with feelings of inadequacy as we began constantly comparing our lives with the social-media filtered lives of our peers and celebrities like The Kardashians. We began to experience isolation from our real-life relationships as we became preoccupied with communicating via our avatars – the internet versions of ourselves. Despite the subconscious, chronic layer of depression our smartphones were projecting onto us, we found these same devices useful as a tool for filtering out the noise from what was going on in the world around us. Sadly, many of us millennials, myself included, have become self-absorbed and far too skillful at filtering reality via the distraction of our phones; we forget there’s this whole new generation coming up after us – Generation Z. And they need our support.
Generation Z, generally agreed upon by researchers as anyone born after 1996, has never known a life apart from the continuous, looming threat of terrorism. Generation Z cannot remember a time when mass shootings in schools weren’t “just a part of growing up, kiddo.” In fact, a 2013 Gen Z-focused issue of The Cassandra Report revealed that 43% of 7- to 13-year-olds anticipated school violence/shootings would have a stronger impact on their generation than even the invention of social media and the election of the first Black President. Generation Z are digital natives who understand the potential of social media to create powerful, interconnected movements of people fighting to affect tangible change in the world. Generation Z observed the viral explosion of the long overdue #MeToo movement, spurred on a global scale by women of all ages, and they took notes. This past week, our nation and our government have witnessed the unwavering commitment of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high schoolers and the thousands of other students who have joined them in organizing marches, school walk-outs, and public speeches, in an effort to see common-sense gun laws voted into action by Congress.
Millennials, I know our generation has seen some rough times, I know many of us are tired of trying to change the way things are, I know often it’s more comfortable to bury ourselves in our work and our phones than face what’s really going on in the world around us. But now, more than ever, is the time for our generation to stand with our young cohorts and show them they have our support, as they proactively seek to affect change in our government and our laws. There are so many tangible ways we can take an active role in supporting the efforts of these brave teenagers. One way we can help is by donating to their GoFundMe campaign to support the March for Our Lives event planned for March 24 in Washington, DC and cities across the nation. The GoFundMe has raised $1,851,447 in just 3 days. Another way we can assist in raising awareness for the legislation these kids are fighting for is by simply posting on our social media. There’s an Instagram account called @everytown that posts quality, informed content about the need to end gun violence in America. I’ve seen some of my well-respected peers on Instagram reposting from that account.
With our constant access to the Internet, social media, and countless apps, all via our smartphones, there are so many effortless ways we can help propel the activism of these young people forward so that true change can come about. In the words of Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk at the 2016 Recode Conference, “You have more power than the President of the United States had twenty years ago…you can answer any question, you can videoconference with anyone anywhere, you can send a message to millions of people instantly, you can just do incredible things.” Millennials, let’s put aside our disappointment, frustration, and cynicism, and let’s start doing incredible things again. Let’s join forces with Generation Z in shouting from the tops of our lungs “NEVER AGAIN!”
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