June 26, 2011

The Millennial Shift

by Elizabeth Donahey in Generations, Uncategorized

Since the time of my Healdsburg High School graduation ceremony in 1993, the speech topics have taken a dramatic shift from the what the students are learning about to what they are learning about each other, and, more importantly, the degree to which they are socially accepted by others, accelerated and facilitated by social media platforms, namely Facebook and Twitter. This is part of the Millennial Shift, in which the 13 to 30-year-old generation is quickly rising to take the lead or dominant cultural position in leading what the norms, values, and beliefs. The shift will be revealed and evident through the behaviors adopted by this generation, and will not complete until the Millennials have entered the workforce.

Looking out from the balcony seating over the well-staged scene of my nephew’s graduation this humid mid-west evening in June of 2011, Merrilville High School in Indiana, I am overwhelmed with the undeniable presence of a significant social shift. It is a shift in valuing what we know intellectually to be true to who we are. From what we know collectively, to who we are to one another in the larger social context. Throughout the students’ and faculty speeches, the names of people they knew and loved superseded the things they learned. Their growth and social development was cited several times as running parallel with the evolution of Facebook, specifically how they grew to prefer and use My Space to Facebook. Social media amplified by technology were not at my fingertips in high school. In fact, in my third year, typing on an actual typewriter was required and the Internet was five years away. We were just being introduced to Apple’s first generation desktops, a far cry from the iPhone I’m currently typing away on right now with immediate publishing capabilities through this dynamic blog interface.

This shift is a product of our current times, driven by the towering wave of social media networks, the drivers at the wheel are the very bright graduates crossing the stage in caps and gowns. The Millennials will lead the TraditionalistBoomers, and, yes, you too you not so young Generation X’ers. Make way for the Millennial mind, a shift is occurring.

In contrast to the Gen X’s dominant trait of focusing on outcomes over busy work, the Millennials behavior is driven by the social relationships and social capital they and their networks possesses. So what are the key implications on how this will shape our everyday lives as the Millennials expand their social media imprint on the world? A closer examination may reveal that as an American culture and perhaps beyond, our ability to “all get along” is accelerating due to the heavy prevalence of social media technology, tools and adopters.

It was not only the students who focused on praising and recognizing others exponentially, the school president and keynote speaker as well made mention of the names and relationships, clearly calling out the specific lives that impacted him behind it the substantiating evidence of their social value to him.

My theory is that each generation takes turns in driving the lead culture and rotates out over time. Also, perhaps this shift is indicative of social evolution and a move towards more cohesive social times in our western culture led by the Millennial minds.

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