Can Gen Y (Why?) Save the World?
By Shlomo Maital
Gen Y is the cohort of people, twenty-somethings, born roughly between 1980 and 1994. They were preceded by Gen X (1966-80), the boomers (1946-1965) and my generation Gen Baby Bust (born in the Depression and WWII).
There are very big differences in values across the generations, as scholars like Neil Howe and the late William Strauss (U.S.) and Tamar and Oz Almog (Haifa Univ., Israel) have found. It’s not just because we older folks forget what it was like to be young, either. Gen Y has the most names of any generation so far, and the names are revealing: the Millenials, Internet Gen, Global Gen, Boomerang Gen (they come home to their parents after college), Gen Me (they are narcissistic), Peter Pan Gen (they don’t want to grow up), Gen Now (they live in the present), Gen F (Facebook).
The Almog’s will soon publish an 800-page study of Israeli Gen Y’s. Their main findings, which seem to translate to other countries, because Gen Y is highly global:
* Narcissistic: Oxford English Dictionary chooses a ‘hit’ word each year. This year’s word: Selfy. Perfect. A selfy, for Gen Old, is photographing yourself with a cell phone camera. Gen Y’s do it all the time, instead of seeking autographs.
* Lack resilience: Gen X and the boomers hover over Gen Y, as ‘helicopter parents’, so Gen Y rarely have to engage in tough struggles.
* Lack testosterone: The Almogs note that Gen Y is far less eager to go to war than Gen X; they are less driven by testosterone. Perhaps in future we will have fewer conflicts as a result. Gen Y is also less nationalistic, less patriotic, more global. This is true of the large Gen Y population in Arab countries as well.
* Footloose: Gen Y will not stick at a job they dislike. Employers are beginning to adapt to this. Gen Y will not sacrifice family for work, and give loyalty to themselves, not their employers.
* Connected: Gen Y do not make decisions on their own. They are permanently connected with others, and can quickly consult with parents, friends, peers, before deciding anything.
* Collective: Gen Y are collective, almost socialist. They like working in groups and are good at it. Competitive capitalism will have to change to adapt to this. For example, Gen Y in Israel is returning to the kibbutz to live.
* Unisex: Gender differences are far smaller among Gen Y. There is far more gender equality among them. For some Gen Y women, this may be a problem (“I can’t find a REAL man!”, said one).
* Gen Why? Gen Y questions everything. They do not swallow whole the values of Gen X.
There is much hope for the future. The Great Generation, born in the ‘20s, fought and sacrificed for freedom. The boomers and Gen X ruined our planet. The Almogs believe Gen Y may be another Great Generation; they may save our planet, because they care about it.