I asked on the TED discussion site, “How are global youth changing our future? Are they Generation We or Me?”[i] More respondents said WE (14), and minorities (5 each) said they’re no different from previous generations or they’re “me” because adolescents are self-absorbed until they mature and social media keeps them isolated in front of a screen. David says “We’re generation ‘Are you fing kidding me?’ I always think it’s hilarious to hear older people talk about how selfish Millennials are as they refuse to pay for social security and Medicare to be solvent and shop at Wal-Mart instead of local businesses.” “We hope the economy falls apart because otherwise we’re enslaved to pay the last generations debts for wars, etc. which produced nothing for us.” He adds if this selfishness “continues it’s 10 years before global warming causes mass starvation, at best.” Since this is a “war torn, bizarre world, nightmare of a country,” he’s not sure of how to proceed on his career path.
Several respondents said there’s a WE/ME ratio, so both traits characterize youth. For example, Lisa is a California college student who said when she surveyed other students about their definition of success, the majority said making money, but she knows WE students who volunteer, plan for careers in social entrepreneurship, and study global issues. She believes, “so many young people possess an incessant and powerful desire to learn about the world, make changes, and make the world a better place.’
Their access to information enables youth to see through hypocrisy and rebel against it, said ‘N SHR.’ They’re more aware but they lack depth, observes Bridget, a high school teacher (age 26). She observes that her students “have a greater connectivity with the whole world, and exposure to a massive amount of ideas and cultures which make them more aware of issues and needs and events, which makes them very sympathetic and open.” However, their knowledge is superficial; “They want to spring to action, but without being armed with knowledge or commitment. They are an apparent WE, but often driven by the emotions of the ME. For those who do find or have the foundations, I see them charging forward with an incredible influence for real change and good.“
Jeff, a Millennial, thinks that WE is a veneer for ME: “altruism, social justice and pop psychology are staples of my generation. ‘Altruism’ is a buzzword that also means I’m a good person and I’m looking out for your best interest so help ME out. In reality, it is an easily swayed adolescent mob where everyone is attempting to hijack the group for their own self-interest.”
The “we” explanations were that the Internet enables a new global culture which requires thinking about others, especially in the face of pollution, poverty, and disease which require collective solutions. Tanka, a Millennial in Nepal, believes that “alone and single we are doomed and along with us, the future.” He advocates created a network of youth to discuss, vote, and act, because without a network nothing is possible; “The act can be anything from not using a brand or bank or simple walking together.” Most agreed that the Internet makes this generation different and because of it they are altruistic, although sometimes self-centered.
I posted the same question on Fluther. With fewer responses, five thought there’s no difference in generations and that it’s selfish of older generations to saddle younger ones with debt, two thought youth are more aware and compassionate—“almost everyone volunteers.” One thought they’re both WE and ME, and one thought they’re superficial. As Janelle, a college student, said, “it’s hard to find someone that’s truly intelligent, has an appreciate for the arts, etc. Most of them won’t even know how to survive in the ‘real world.’ We’re raise with the skills to pass classes and to get good grades on tests, not much more.”