Millennials Find Confidence in Embracing the Void


Millennials don’t seem to take comfort in the same things as their elders do. A new study from the Pew Research Center called Millennials in Adulthood finds that far fewer of them identify with a religion or a political party. They’re less likely to be married than previous generations were at the same age. Only half call themselves patriotic, and a scant 1 in 5 thinks that most people can be trusted. Just a handful expect that Social Security will pay in full when they need it.

Is alienation from these most traditional pillars of society getting them down? Not in the least. Millennials are more likely than their elders to believe that the nation’s best days are ahead of it and to trust that they’ll have enough money to lead the lives they want.

Peter Coy at Businessweek wonders why we’re so optimistic when we have nothing to be optimistic about. Good question. Is it, “the timeless confidence of youth”? Our “digital lives” (heh)?

Maybe it is because living without politics, religion, and patriotism just means we are embracing the hilarious meaninglessness of life (life without social security benefits) much earlier than previous generations, and hoping to God (or, not-God) that our lives get a little bit better before they burn out for good. Because when your expectations are already really, really low, can you ever be truly disappointed? Oh yeah, and fewer loveless marriages. Woohooo.

---
---
---
---
---

7 Comments / Post A Comment

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

I’m not sure that I buy this idea that we’re all just cheerful nihilists. I think there’s definitely some truth to the idea that millennials are tied to different, more ephemeral institutions than our predecessors. The term “digital lives” is a bit hand-wavy but it does point to something genuine. Our digital communities might be less tangible and encompassing than our physical communities but they are still a counterpoint to isolation.

On the other hand there’s an argument to be made that the relative youth of this demographic means that most haven’t been confronted with serious illness or other traumatic circumstances that would make the lack of social guarantees more acutely troubling.

andnowlights (#2,902)

@EvanDeSimone Digital communities are so important. As someone who is both shy in situations where I don’t know anyone and someone moves around more often than I’d like, my digital friends are a significant part of my life because they’re the only consistent people I have around. I have real life friends, but they’re scattered around the country and sometimes it’s just exhausting to go out and make new friends knowing that I’m moving in two years.

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

@andnowlights Exactly! Digital communities are more flexible and often better suited to meet people’s emotional and intellectual needs. I’ve gone out socially with co-workers dozens of times because we share the accident of physical proximity, but I won’t miss them nearly as much as I would miss some of my online friend groups who I’ve never actually socialized with in person.

You make an excellent point that digital communities can help to counteract some of the things about young adult life that can be so alienating. Having to move or live in specific places for financial reasons, or not having the resources to socialize frequently.

andnowlights (#2,902)

It is frustrating to be a “millennial” and fall so far outside what is considered the norm (I actually do not claim the label): I am married, I do identify with a religion, in my less cynical moments I’m very patriotic (even if I think the best years of the US are past us) and truly believe that people can mostly be trusted (but I still lock my doors). That’s really all I have to add, even if it’s not that deep.

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

@andnowlights I knew you’d read this. Millennial is like your trigger word. :-p

aproprose (#1,832)

@andnowlights “Millenials” or “friends of the author.”

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

@aproprose @andnowlights You know, with all due respect I do think that the term millennial get’s harshed on quite a lot because no one likes to be lumped into a category. Still you have to admit that there are some interesting aggregate commonalities of experience if not behavior. It’s worth singling out a cohort who have been largely raised in a new media and information environment.

Post a Comment