Lately, it seems like every other headline proclaims another business or product millennials are guilty of “killing,” from paper napkins to American beer to…doorbells? Even the Gregory Brothers of “Songify the News” recently released a parody video about millennials killing everything—so you know things must be getting serious. But for those of us in this generation, all the accusations can bring us down. After all, there are a number of things millennials do extremely well. Maybe it’s time to hear a good report. Here are six areas in which we’re making the world a better place.
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The real reason behind the trend of millennials “killing” various traditional industries may simply be a desire to do things differently. With our flair for bucking convention, we’re driven by creativity. A survey conducted by the media company StoryBlocks revealed that younger people were more likely than older generations to try out a variety of new and creative tasks, like building a mobile app, taking an online art class, and even (for the true hipsters) learning to knit. Perhaps this open-mindedness is a positive by-product of coming of age in such a rapidly changing world. My personal favorite way to stay open to fresh experiences is traveling to new places.
In the words of a viral tweet, “Everyone hates millennials until it’s time to convert a PDF into a Word document.” If there’s one thing young adults actually get credit for, it’s our understanding—and advancement—of the latest technology. Ninety percent of millennials believe that technology creates more opportunity, and we’re (largely) committed to using it for good. Exciting innovations like a bra that could detect breast cancer, inflatable solar-powered lights for disaster relief workers, and a cavity-fighting gum for kids in the Third World have all been created by our generation.
Considering that we’ve grown up with near-constant access to information, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that millennials are hungry to learn. My generation is on track to become the most educated to date, with 29 percent of men and 36 percent of women having completed at least a bachelor’s degree as of 2015. We’re also happy to see increased funding put toward the cause. According to a GenForward Survey, millennials “want to pay teachers more, they want to invest in neighborhood schools, and overall, they want to give more funding to public education.” (Now if only we could find a solution for our student loans.)
Don’t call us slacktivists! Contrary to our reputation for self-centeredness, millennials actually volunteer more of their time for charitable work than generations past. While 61 percent of baby boomers and 63 percent of Generation X’ers give of their time, 70 percent of millennials say they regularly volunteer. When we find a cause we care about, we’re likely to pursue it with passion. For me, it’s Maggie’s place — a nonprofit that provides housing and resources for pregnant moms in need, where I’ve volunteered off and on for several years.’
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“Killing” paper napkins and plastic bags might not be such a bad thing. With a better understanding of our ecological footprint, millennials are highly tuned in to environmental issues. One survey found that workplace sustainability is a major consideration when this generation goes looking for a job, with 90 percent of millennials calling it “important” (as opposed to 84 percent of Generation X and 77 percent of baby boomers). Other research revealed that concern for the planet affects our shopping habits, too, as 70 percent of millennials state that environmental practices are a deciding factor in whether to purchase a company’s products. Though I can’t say I always follow this trend, I try my best. One year I bought as many Christmas gifts as possible from vendors at my local farmer’s market in an effort to promote sustainability.
For ages, we’ve heard the reports that half of all American marriages end in divorce. But millennials appear to be changing this sad statistic. According to a report from the University of Maryland, the U.S. divorce rate actually declined 18 percent between 2008 and 2016—a development experts are attributing to this generation’s life choices. Millennials often wait until they’re older (and perhaps a little wiser) to get married, experience less stigma about being single longer, and may simply be better equipped than their predecessors to make relationships work.
So, next time someone claims millennials are killing everything, just remember there are plenty of ways we’re changing the world for good.
Originally published on November 28, 2018.