Archive for gen y
If you haven’t already seen it, late last month the Pew Research Center released a new study on millennials, titled “Millennials: Confident, Connected, and Open to Change.” I think it presents a lot of fascinating new facts about our generation — but also has some points I would personally dispute.
One of the first pieces of information is something I think — or at least I hope — we already knew: millennials are less white and more diverse than older generations. I think this is exciting for so many reasons but most of all because in 10, 20, 30 years when the millennials begin to assume positions of greater power in society — media, politics, business — our diverse backgrounds will have such a deep and profound impact on the way society functions. It is already changing things now — and can only change the way the world works even more in the coming decades.
However, it’s not all rosy: 37% of 18- to 29-year-olds are unemployed or out of the workforce, the highest share among this age group in more than three decades.
The study points out that we’re on track to become the most highly educated generation in history: Among 18 to 24 year olds a record share — 39.6% — was enrolled in college as of 2008, according to census data. However, I think the study misses the larger point that there is still a huge amount of young people not getting the education they need — and non-college youth are often overlooked in research studies, by marketered, and by political campaigns.
I think there’s still a lot of questions to be answered as this generation grows older about how their differences in education level, technology usage, diversity, and priorities and lifestyles will shape American society in the next few years. I’m speaking on a panel at SXSW Interactive next week that hopes to address, or at least start a conversation about, some of these issues — with a focus on how millennials function in the workforce. If you’re going to be at SXSW Interactive, I hope you’ll attend! You can learn more about our panel here and here. And follow the hashtag #sxgeny on Twitter for further information and updates.
So, I found a really interesting article in my Google Buzz feed today (is it too early to start using that term casually?) via Akhila about how social media users are getting older — and how young people are barely using the internet.
Blogger Jina Moore wrote:
I gave a talk yesterday in the stellar Rosemary Armao’s upper-class undergraduate journalism class at SUNY-Albany… Rosemary’s 30-ish students are all around 20. I polled them. None of them reads blogs. None of them uses Twitter. A few actually read the newspaper (cheer for the underdog!), but few of them really seek out news. Those who do look at it on their phones.
This reminded me of my visit to St. Mary’s, a private high school in Portland, Ore. I didn’t poll the students there — my mission was slightly different — but I did happen to find out that not one of them uses Twitter. “Ms. Pierce,” one student explained to my friend who had invited me, “Twitter is for old people.”
I was mostly shocked by the fact that NONE of the 20-year-olds — in a journalism class! — read blogs. Hardly anyone reads books anymore, and definitely nobody reads papers, so if they’re not reading blogs what ARE the journalism students of today reading? Reading, people! Have we forgotten about it already?
Reading Jina’s post is initially shocking because everyone thinks of 18-24 year olds as “digital natives” (whatever that means) who are glued to the internet, blogs, Twitter, etc — even the new Pew study that came out today basically reaffirms what everyone thought they already knew about how millennials love the internet.
But while young people may use Facebook, for the most part, 18-24 year olds are not the people reading blogs or using Twitter. and when they do use social media tools they use it to connect with their friends — not necessarily to share information. That’s why seeing the clash of people my age and their parents/coworkers/bosses on Facebook is so interesting. We got Facebook in college and used it to connect with our friends — now everyone older than us is getting Facebook and using it as a professional and information-sharing tool.
I probably shouldn’t be surprised. As recently as last year I would tell my friends something interesting I read on a blog and they’d react with blank stares and scoff “I don’t really read blogs. Blogs are not my thing.” And the only college journalism majors I know of who even use Twitter are sort of weak at it. They use it like a glorified Facebook status update, rather than a tool for sharing content, links, and insight.
At the same time, I can’t really rail on college journalists: this past Monday Huffington Post launched its college section and they have a really fine collection of college student bloggers writing for the site and sharing their insights on the college experience today. There is some great content to be found on HuffPost College from some great student writers who really get the importance of digital journalism. So you know those students are out there, but I feel like they’re few and far between.
The future of journalism is all about digital media, yet many student journalists are still, for the most part, not absorbing themselves in the online tools that are quickly taking over their industry. Print is dead (hello!) so I hope that the future journalists of America start using digital tools for information, reading, and research; digital media holds so much value for the future of journalism, but only if the college students of today figure out how to use it. If they have to be educated on it, so be it: maybe what college journalists need is mandatory classes on digital media instead of so many classes on print journalism.
We’re counting on them to figure out how to save journalism!
It’s being called “digital white flight.” And according to danah boyd, it should scare us all.
Last week at Personal Democracy Forum 2009, Dr. danah boyd’s talk on the hidden — or not-so-hidden — politics of class online was one of the hits of the conference. boyd’s talk explored the differences between usage of MySpace and Facebook and what it means for society.
How many times have we heard, said, or read that MySpace is dead? Hmm, well, I can think a of a few good examples. And really, who uses MySpace? boyd asked that question of the audience and no one raised their hands. She asked if we used Facebook and naturally, we all raised our hands. Do you use MySpace? Probably not. Probably because it’s ugly and garish, with flashy colorful layouts and too many which-victoria’s-secret-angel-are-you quizzes; the poor aesthetics and lack of features make Facebook the more popular choice for most of us.
But, MySpace still gets 70 million unique hits a month, according to boyd’s data. But if all of us, and everyone we know, is lamenting how ugly and useless MySpace is, and none of us actually use it (save for the occasional search for cool new indie bands), then who are these 70 million visitors a month? If MySpace is still getting 70 million visitors, it is clearly NOT dead. 70 million is significant; it’s not something to brush off. And yet most of us don’t use MySpace or know many people who do.
So who are they?
boyd interviewed hundreds of American teenagers to find out. Her results might be surprising–although they probably shouldn’t be.
Kat (14, Mass.): I’m not really into racism, but I think that MySpace now is more like ghetto or whatever, and Facebook is all… not all the people that have Facebook are mature, but its supposed to be like oh we’re more mature. … MySpace is just old.
Craig (17, California): The higher castes of high school moved to Facebook. It was more cultured, and less cheesy. The lower class usually were content to stick to MySpace. Any high school student who has a Facebook will tell you that MySpace users are more likely to be barely educated and obnoxious. Like Peet’s is more cultured than Starbucks, and Jazz is more cultured than bubblegum pop, and like Macs are more cultured than PC’s, Facebook is of a cooler caliber than MySpace.
Anastasia (17, New York): My school is divided into the ‘honors kids,’ (I think that is self-explanatory), the ‘good not-so-honors kids,’ ‘wangstas,’ (they pretend to be tough and black but when you live in a suburb in Westchester you can’t claim much hood), the ‘latinos/hispanics,’ (they tend to band together even though they could fit into any other groups) and the ‘emo kids’ (whose lives are allllllways filled with woe). We were all in MySpace with our own little social networks but when Facebook opened its doors to high schoolers, guess who moved and guess who stayed behind… The first two groups were the first to go and then the ‘wangstas’ split with half of them on Facebook and the rest on MySpace… I shifted with the rest of my school to Facebook and it became the place where the ‘honors kids’ got together and discussed how they were procrastinating over their next AP English essay.
Another thing boyd also pointed out was that these sites, although we new media types like to call them social networking sites, aren’t really used for networking other than by a small minority. Most people go on Facebook and MySpace and Twitter not to meet new people but to reinforce their existing relationships; and thus, a wall of separation that already exists is further reinforced. Different types of people are on MySpace and Facebook; and by limiting ourselves only to using one site, where all our friends are, we are maintaining that division since we will never interact with users on the other site.
During the talk, people at the conference were tweeting up a storm (myself included) but many of them seemed to react as if this was revolutionary to them. I don’t think the fact that there is a class division between MySpace and Facebook users should be revolutionary news, unless one is seriously out of touch with young people.
But I do think what boyd has done, in collecting actual data, evidence, and interviews from young people which supports an idea that we all knew was true all along but never had any actual proof of, is revolutionary. Did we all know this in the back of our minds? Yes, probably (I hope). But would anyone ever admit such a thing out loud or talk about it or acknowledge that it’s true? No. So naturally, there’s been plenty of critics arguing that it’s not true and that boyd’s argument is overblown.
One of the biggest criticisms I have heard of boyd’s argument so far is “It’s not that we like Facebook better because we’re racist or elitist; we just like the better design and better features. It’s not about race or class. We’re not racist!” (defensive much?)
But I think boyd already refuted that when she said: “All of this would be fine and dandy if friendships and aesthetics and values weren’t inherently intertwined with issues of race, socio-economic status, education, and other factors that usually make up our understanding of “class.” But they are.”
I have to agree with her. Your socioeconomic standing inevitably causes you to gravitate towards Facebook or MySpace more. Because all your friends are on one or the other. And because perhaps, if you’re used to nicer things in life, you’re going to want nicer things in your social networking site of choice.
danah boyd’s full talk is posted here. What are your thoughts? Do you use MySpace? Do you believe there’s a class division in social networking sites? And if so: how did we get there? And what do we do about it?
Everywhere you turn, you can’t avoid headlines like “Note to College Seniors” or “2009 a tough year for new grads” or my favorite “Graduating in 2009? Might as well take a year off in Tahiti!”
I see a lot of talk about graduating this year and our grim job prospects, but I’m kind of tired of talk and every new related article I see makes me a little more exhausted. Yes, we are graduating in a recession. But we’re also not the first group of people to do so — it happens to grads in every recession.
I don’t want to spend my time reading articles about how bleak the rest of my life looks and feeling sorry for myself. Sorry! Not reading your articles. I refuse to participate in your recession. Corny as it may sound, half the battle really is attitude — and how many successful people do you know who got there by being miserable about the job market all the time? None. That is because there are none. The successful ones are the ones who stopped worrying about that which they can’t change, and started taking action to change what they do have control over.
I’m not saying the grim job market doesn’t exist. I know as much as anyone that it does. I’m not trying to be naive, but I refuse to be pessimistic either. But I am saying: change your attitude — both soon-to-be grads and also, those recent grads who keep writing those damn “I-feel-so-sorry-for-you-college-seniors” articles. Stop the doom-mongering – you’re not helping. Older people keep telling me how sorry you feel for us, but that just makes me feel bad — like my life must be really bad in order to deserve others’ pity. It’s not! We have a lot to be grateful for otherwise, whether we have a job offer in hand yet or not.
Seniors: Choose action over talk. Double your job hunt efforts. Network harder. Try your parents’ companies. Try nontraditional career paths. Work abroad. Temp for a while. Try a whole new industry. Scrap your well-laid plans, since the economy doesn’t care about your plans — but refuse to abandon your dreams. And for God’s sake, stop reading articles that make you feel even more down about the job market.
So we got stuck graduating in 2009: big deal. Keep your eye on the prize (whatever your prize may be) and have faith that the market will get better, and whatever job you end up taking now will fit into your grand scheme some day. Be optimistic. Stop worrying and start kicking ass.
Last week I wrote about something that has been on my mind lately: Gen Y blogging and whether we are self-absorbed or not.
Do we blog about ourselves a lot? I think we do. We’re all guilty of it at times. And why wouldn’t you? Everyone’s interested in themselves, their lives, their careers. That’s human nature and you would be abnormal if you weren’t.
But no matter what the topic or ‘niche’ of your blog, if you have an audience, you can use your blog to create social change just by spreading the word and doing something. It doesn’t have to be all the time. And it doesn’t matter how big your audience is. Even if you have 1 reader (who may or may not be your mom), that will be one more person who is more educated about an issue and who may take action.
The simple act of informing people about problems in society can go a long way towards creating action. Change has to start with education and information. And bloggers are in a fantastic place to provide that.
So here is a list of 25 ways I think bloggers can do just that, and create real change. Many thanks to Raven who helped brainstorm a good portion of the ideas on this list.
If you think of more to add, leave a comment. And if you do any of these things, let me know (and maybe link back here … I will be thrilled.
2. Join Bloggers Unite and agree to blog about issues you care about on a certain day with hundreds of other bloggers.
3. Or if you don’t see the issue you care about, create your own and get other bloggers to support it by writing posts too.
4. Videoblog an interview with someone who has been affected by an issue you care about: disease, poverty, war, genocide…
5. Share someone’s story who would never have a chance to be heard otherwise.
6. Has someone you love been affected by cancer or other disease? Share your story and raise awareness.
7. Highlight nonprofits that are creating change, like this one, the Fresh Air Fund.
8. Circulate a petition. Ask your readers to participate. Like this one, sent to me by a CJP reader whose daughter is fighting the disease Spinal Muscular Atrophy: www.petitiontocuresma.com.
9. Vlog an event related to social change/human rights issues
10. Twitterfeed posts from groups like Human Rights Watch
11. Write about your experiences with volunteer or nonprofit work.
12. Write your own ideas on how global human rights issues can be alleviated.
13. Participate in Blog Action Day.
14. Invite someone who typically blogs about social change or political issues to write a guest post for your blog.
15. Discuss how social media plays a role in the non-profit community.
16. Write about advocacy in digestable ways for would-be donors, supporters: Ex. Explaining how donating to Save Darfur will help fund portable stoves for Darfur so young girls and women do not have to leave the camps (thus putting themselves at risk to be attacked while gathering firewood) or the Visual petition at www.congowomen.org
17. Highlight events related to advocacy efforts of charities, advocacy organizations, or other philanthropic groups in your area.
18. Interview or profile someone involved in social justice/human rights efforts
19. Research how a person or group is using interesting or unusual means to educate others on social justice
20. Discuss how social change is being implemented in school curricula and how schools are creating the idea of “global citizenship”
21. Interview a veteran.
22. Ask your readers to donate to a cause you care about. Even if it’s small — a few dollars still goes a long way.
23. Highlight other bloggers, especially ones who need attention in volatile areas.
24. Participate in an event like Twestival to raise money for charity. Better yet: organize one.
25. Include a link in your blog to great websites that allow you to make a difference with just a click, like The Hunger Site.
I hope this is only a start. What else would you add to the list?
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Okay, a disclaimer before someone gets offended by this post: I like Gen Y blogs. Duh. I subscribe to about 100 of them. It started when I found Employee Evolution 2 years ago and obsessively checked it everyday for new posts. Since then I’ve only continued to read more and more Gen Y blogs on a daily basis.
We blog about our lives, our successes and failures and triumphs and upsets. We blog about our careers and how we want to advance them. Some blog about their sex lives, their crazy parents, their relationships, their bad days, their hangovers, their marriages. For many, blogging is a release, a way to work out problems and feel better. And it’s true, the act of writing can have that effect.
Bloggers have at their disposal an interesting platform: as Monica points out, someone with a good voice can build a huge audience of people who want to hear what they have to say. It’s like having a microphone with which we can spread our ideas to hundreds, maybe thousands, of people.
So with that ability, shouldn’t we do something … more? Could we, instead of using blogging as a way to simply discuss our lives and our futures, affect real social change? Around the world? Can we use our platform to give voices to those who don’t have any, yet who desperately need to be heard? Can we tell their stories and make them heard, like this Congolese woman? Her story is one of millions, and so easy to forget. But could we instead do something about it?
Can we, from right here in the comfort of our own homes, create social change that impacts the world?
Maybe we could. Although some definitely say maybe we can’t. Maybe social media doesn’t really change anything. Maybe, as one wise man once said, electronic communities really build nothing. Perhaps it’s all just empty narcissism.
But I think they’re wrong; even Vonnegut. I think there are plenty of ways we can use the range of new technology available to us to create real change and raise awareness. Some people have already set examples — like here, and here, and here.
The question is: do we care enough? Just because we can do something, and we have the resources to do it, doesn’t mean we will choose action over talk. We get wrapped up in our job hunts and travel plans and five midterm exams and crappy bosses and unemployment and achieving our dreams and microfame and finding the one and everything else. And then we blog all about ourselves and our lives again because it’s what we’re thinking about at any given moment.
And so, sometimes we forget that blogging is bigger than just ourselves; it’s a platform. One from which we can educate, inform, discuss, spread ideas, and create change. If you write well about things that matter, people will listen.
Next time: a follow-up with thoughts on ways you can use a blog to create real change.
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Update: just after I published this piece, I read a fantastic article in this month’s issue of The Atlantic about the changing racial/ethnic makeup of America. If you liked this post, check out the Atlantic article HERE for a thought-provoking read.
So I spent the last two weeks backpacking in Southeast Asia, and yes it was fantastic! But today when I sat down in front of the laptop I had missed so dearly for two weeks, what I wanted to write about wasn’t all the stuff I did, but something that most people regard almost insignificant.
I wanted to write about the spare minute or two we spent in each country on our trip (5 of them, not counting our re-entry into the US yesterday morning) filling out arrival and departure cards. Of all the time we spend traveling, it’s probably the most easily forgotten two minutes of any traveler’s time abroad.
But for me, waiting in line at customs and filling out that card so many times was interesting because the third line on each card, after first and last name, would always be “Nationality.” And then the government of that country would give you one line with 10 little boxes, one per letter, within which to neatly write down the country you hail from. You know, as if our national identities could be neatly encompassed in 8-10 little boxes.
I always spend an inordinate amount of time staring at the card trying to figure out what to write down. Then eventually I give up and write down American, because that’s what the title on my passport says I am. But writing American on that card always, every year, made me feel like a little bit of an impostor. I never felt ‘American’ like my peers, despite bring born and raised in the United States. I felt more like I was supposed to be a foreigner; and that Americans were people that had been here for generations. People that weren’t separated from the rest by immigrant parents and cultural barriers and skin colors.
One night last week, my friends and I sat in a restaurant in Phuket, Thailand, discussing our backgrounds. Of the five of us, one was Caucasian, one Japanese, two were Americans whose parents immigrated to the US from India, and one had parents who immigrated from Hong Kong. We were discussing whether we more closely associated ourselves with America, or with our original country, and each of us shared about the collective pull we have all felt at times between our heritage and the country we now live in.
And then it was the one white guy’s turn– the one whose family can be traced in America for generations back, the one person at the dinner table that night who I felt was lucky enough to feel truly secure that he, really, is American.
He, I knew, will never have an identity crisis about what nation can lay claim to him, nor will he feel like an impostor when he writes down American. He will never know how frustrating it is to be challenged by people you meet in other countries who, because of the color of your skin, can’t believe you when you insist you’re American. I thought he had it easy — but then he confessed that his lack of ethnic background meant that he felt like he was constantly on a search, constantly struggling to redefine for himself what “American” truly means.
And I realized: isn’t that the very essence of being American? The fact that every one of us, white or black or Asian or whatever else, are constantly redefining what it means to be “American”? If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few weeks, it’s that the criteria with which we used to decide what and who is perceived as American in the past is crap.
What much of the world doesn’t understand about America yet, and many Americans themselves don’t understand, is that our identity as a nation is changing. This is the only nation where you can come over from any other country in the world and assimilate into the culture here. I could move to Cambodia, but I’d never be a Cambodian — I’d forever be branded an expat, a foreigner. But a Cambodian could move to the US and eventually become one of the 300,000,000 other Americans. And the thing that ties us all together is the fact that we can be one society, where each one of us possesses our own unique story as to how we ended up in this continent and how we became American. We can forget the barriers that separate us and learn to appreciate diversity for what it is, and for what it can teach us.
And what a remarkable concept that is. Having a funny last name that no one can pronounce, or having parents from a different country doesn’t have to make you less American than anyone else — it makes you a shining example of what America can stand for. Hell, you could become president!
What does “American” mean to you?
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I’ve always been one with extremely high goals, and I always believed I wouldn’t settle for anything less than achieving those exact goals. And when it comes to careers, I was always taught to believe that as long as you worked hard enough, there would be no reason to settle — you could get yourself wherever you wanted.
So I didn’t want the beaten path, I didn’t want in on the consulting/i-banking rat race; I figured I’d do exactly what I wanted (whatever that was) and settle for no less. I didn’t so much care about perfect grades or amazing starting salaries or corner offices or working for the brand-name firms that everyone else fawned over; but what I wanted to find was work that was really meaningful, something that made me excited to get up and out of bed on Monday mornings.
But now that the recession is decimating nearly every industry, everyone wants to give me advice on my impending job hunt. And, I’m getting similar unsolicited advice from all sides: just settle. Take what you can get, because there’s no jobs around. Forget about achieving your dreams or changing the world; there’s no time for that now. Just settle, and be grateful for whatever you can get.
But is this really the attitude we should be having right now? Or ever?
Nadira Hira recently wrote in Fortune that Gen Yers won’t settle. And maybe that was true, until the economy imploded this fall. Suddenly, all our youthful idealism and lofty goals are evaporating and being replaced with cold practicality.
Everywhere you turn, you see people doing exactly that: settling. My friends who wanted to go into politics are trading in their political aspirations to be one of hundreds of other fresh grads at big corporations. Friends of mine who had dreamt of working in the nonprofit sector and changing the world are now telling me — though only half-convinced themselves– “I’m just going into consulting for a few years to make some money. I’ll do the nonprofit thing later.”
And before someone objects to this as my description of “settling;” it’s true consulting may be a better option than the nonprofit sector. It’s certainly may be more profitable, more stable, more secure, than many other industries right now.
But if you choose a career path for security and stability rather than following what you’re passionate about, isn’t that settling? We’re sticking to jobs we don’t love, and more often than not, jobs we hate. Why? Because the recession has got us feeling that we have to cling on to whatever job we can get, and be grateful for it, because we probably won’t be able to find anything else.
I’ve read what a lot of other people are saying about how the economic crisis will affect young people right now. But I also see a lot of people asking the question, “will they quit being so demanding?” But my question is, does the recession mean we all need to stop pursuing our dreams and choose stability instead?
Should pursuing your dreams still matter, or is the “dream job” a concept that never really existed anyways? When there’s about three times as many job seekers as there are jobs, is fulfilling and exciting work too much to ask for? Do we have to abandon all our ambitions and dream to change the world in order to even make rent?
And since when did pursuing your dreams becoming too “demanding?”
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