Once again, Millennials and older generations see things differently – specifically, activism. Baby Boomers are much more focused on quick results rather than the beginning of a long social movement. The most obvious answer for the difference is Millennials have a long time to devote to making a social change. The ways Millennials attach themselves to movements is going to differ based on when we grew up. The biggest difference is obviously technology. Read this article from Forbes to find out more on Millennials and activism.
Larissa Faw, Contributor
Are Millennials Lazy Or Avant-Garde Social Activists?
Is it more effective to stand in front of a building to protest a company’s environmental policy or to lounge in bed and tweet about it? As odd as it may seem to deconstruct any well-intended endeavor, many older activists dismiss Millennials as “slackavists” for their preference towards digital advocacy rather than hitting (or sitting on) the pavement.
Even when Millennials take to the streets, they still encounter criticism from their elders. While Millennials feel Occupy Wall Street is a success, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers consider it a failure.
These contrasting viewpoints aren’t mere gripes about which generation possesses superior activism tactics, but reflect their different interpretations towards social engagement.
“Millennials looked at Occupy Wall Street as a social movement,” says Joe Kessler of The Intelligence Group, publisher of the trend-spotting Cassandra Report. “They wanted an opportunity to express their voice and attract attention, which they received. Older [Americans] are focused on results, effecting change, and a material end result. Now there may be a small group [of Millennials] still sitting in tents that may think differently, but the majority viewed [this movement] as a journey, and not about results.”
Now, it is Millennial’s journey-focused, continuous cycle of social activism that is emerging as the definitive description. Gone are the days of massive sit-ins and letter-writing campaigns championed by older activists. Millennials say today’s social activism incorporates social responsibility into everyday behaviors: 44% try to practice being green in their daily lives, reports the Intelligence Group. “Millennials view social activism much more as it relates to their overall persona than the generations before them,” says Kessler. “Our research indicates they are significantly engaged, but are less active in [individual] actions. [Their social activism] is insinuated in every aspect of their lives.”
As such, Millennials don’t feel the need to show up to a one-day rally to protect the spotted owl because they volunteer regularly at animal shelters, purchase eco-friendly products, and have been fans of the Save the Spotted Owl Facebook group for 10 years. Plus, they talk about owls with their friends and family all of the time.
“They actualize their most important values and stand behind them with every thing they do to bring about change,” says Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis.
As befitting of those who feel they can change the world with their daily decisions, only the President ranks ahead of them as the person they say is most capable of making a difference in the world, according to the Intelligence Group.
Millennial’s cause awareness relies heavily on digital technology. One in three Millennials initially becomes involved in philanthropic endeavors via the Internet, according to TBWA Worldwide. They also think their online activities deliver effective results. Two in three Millennials believe a person on a computer spreading the word can create more change than a person on the street, rallying or protesting, according to the Intelligence Group.
Yet social media’s impact on social advocacy isn’t without its critics. Even Millennials realize a disconnect between their social engagement and online actions — only 2% of Millennials find their online philanthropic involvement satisfying, says TBWA Worldwide. “For a lot of people, the lazy web eco-system makes it easy to support a cause without being productive. We all have been asked to support some team or to like a brand [on Facebook],” says Solis. “Social media is a strong platform for raising awareness, [but] the relationship between cause and effect is defined by action, regardless of medium,” he says. To this end, in May, more than 100,000 Facebook users signed up to be organ donors when the social network introduced a feature to links users to organ donation registries. Users were also able to add this decision to their timeline to encourage others to sign up to do the same. Yet, as an example of the problems with online social engagement, Facebook users quickly lost interest in this charitable endeavor after two weeks, and currently, organ donations via Facebook are at insignificant numbers, according to the Hastings Center.
The fact this online interest wasn’t sustainable isn’t surprising, say analysts. Effective social activism must connect online engagement with offline action, says Solis. “Brands can use the Internet for influence and resonance, but the missing part is what happens after that communication.” He advises all campaigns to tie online actions to specific, on-going, and detailed outcomes. “Otherwise they are just participating as personal avatars without any actual involvement.”
Perhaps the most challenging aspect about Millennial activism is keeping track of their priorities. In 2007, Millennials ranked their top causes as cancer, animal rights and education. This year, however, education, ending poverty, and the environment are their key concerns, says the Intelligence Group.
YAYA Connection agrees that Millennials are doing many things right in the activist world, like using technology, but YAYAs could to work on a few other aspects. We are a distracted group jumping from one ship to the other, and settling on a few key issues could make a world of difference. What do you think? Do you see Millennials issue-hopping?
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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 at 3:28 pm
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