We young Americans, long seen but not always heard, are now flexing our muscles at the ballot box. An estimated 23 million of us turned out last November, comprising 19 percent of the American electorate -- that's more than seniors over 65 (17 percent), and a greater share than we made up in 2008 (18 percent) and 2004 (17 percent) respectively.
While our strong turnout amazed many, it did not seem to surprise President Obama, who noted at his 2013 Inauguration: "America's possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention."
It was clear that he was describing our generation -- Millennials born between 1982 and 1995 -- validating that it truly is 'our time.'
As it should be, given our size and potential. Presently, we're 80 million strong, superseding Baby Boomers, the next largest generation, at 76 million. We also hold a unique place in history as the most multi-cultural and socially tolerant generation to ever exist. And we're also growing fast at about four million a year. That means a lot more political power. It also means a lot more economic power. From 2009 to 2011, our spending swelled some 13 percent to $306 billion annually, and discretionary spending grew 10 percent during this same period to $69 billion from $62.7, billion according to a recent study by Y-Pulse.
As the first generation to come of age with new technologies at our fingertips, we express ourselves differently -- and faster than any of our predecessors thanks to social media. And while some may mistake tweeting, posting, and sharing as disengagement, a study that OurTime.org launched with Insight Labs found that "the level of personalization, customization and freedom that technology has given most children by the time they're 18" not only fashions an innate sense of agency, but might render traditional forms of political expression quaint.
So what does the future of the democracy we are forging look like?
One example might be Matthew Lew, a critically acclaimed artist, and a millennial. He captured the 'Millennial mood' in a stunning triptych (shown here) that's part political commentary and part perceptive promotion, based on a product of his own invention -- magic juices in large, chuggable and intriguingly designed cartons that befit our now-adult generation. They parallel the magic potions from the fairy tales of our childhood. But in this case, they cast spells that instantaneously make us vote, save the planet or stay beautiful.
At OurTime.org, we are all too aware of the impact and power graphically arresting images or memes can have on our generation. Ninety percent of us use the Internet daily, according to the Pew Research Center, and chief among the sites we visit are social media outlets where visuals reign supreme, such as Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram -- ideal places to post these visually stunning artworks.
"We're a generation that grew up on juice boxes, so it made perfect sense to migrate to something bigger, better and that we actually see in the stores today," Lew laughs. He explains that his invention is not just a "tongue-in-cheek take on instant transformations," but a reflection on the instant agency that our generation demands as voters, consumers, and citizens. Now is the time for us to reestablish new tenets of political expression and think outside the proverbial box -- just as Matthew Lew did.