It was only in the past year that I realized being Millennial was “a thing.” As someone who’s smack-dab in the middle of the age range for Millennials, I first saw this generational lumping together as a novelty, but my opinion soon shifted once I started to hear people like Alexis Bloomer feed into these generalizations.
The more I looked around, the more I saw the picture that was being painted about my generation, and it wasn’t altogether flattering. Depending on where you looked, you’d find us being called some variation of lazy, entitled, social media-obsessed narcissists who live with our parents. Beyond the economic realities that force a higher percentage of our generation to live with their parents for longer than they otherwise would, it’s important to recognize that our obsession with social media didn’t arise in a vacuum either. These are sophisticated products designed by the smartest people in the world to maximize the amount of time we spend using them. They took notes from people who design slot machines. Seriously.
But the real issue here is figuring out what and who we should be paying attention to. In an economy where attention is now the most valuable resource we possess, how are we spending it? Justin Bieber’s latest mishap or the T-Swift-Kanye feud are so much juicier than potentially finding the next Albert Einstein or inventing a device to clean the world’s oceans.
One of the pieces of advice that has stuck with me the most over the years is that perception is reality. If we are perceived as vapid, materialistic, narcissists who can’t hold a job, then that’s the reality with which we will be faced. This brings up an even more insidious problem though — the more we are fed this story, the more we will subconsciously believe it. And that’s good for nobody.
So, what to do?
We need to start by changing the conversation. We must recognize that the most valuable resource in today’s digital world is attention, and we are wasting it. We must shift our attention to the amazing capacity our generation has for altruism, connection, political activism, and creativity and choose to highlight those qualities. We must understand that this won’t be done for us.
To this end, my buddy Matt Little (who has worked for the past six years as Director of Communications for J/P HRO, a Haitian disaster relief organization) and I have decided to launch a podcast called Millennials Don’t Suck.
Every week, we’ll be interviewing millennials who do cool stuff, have interesting perspectives, and generally defy the lazy, myopic depictions of our generation that have become more and more common. We’ll rely heavily on the community that we hope to build to help us figure out where to point the spotlight. That hopefully includes you.
We live in a world where Facebook is worth $350 billion simply for grabbing and holding our attention.
If our attention is so valuable, lets put it to better use.