I feel that I need to post this because "research" and opinions on my generation range from highly optimistic to highly cynical. Older people, even some who barely missed the cut-off, say that people my age are not such great people. They say horrible things, like that we are lazy and self-involved, and that we are not capable of or willing to solve the many problems thrust upon us (by these supposedly altruistic generations above us). These claims are almost always based on anecdotes and personal experience, but also some (in my opinion) unfair scientific studies.
Yes, I was born after Reagan left office. I did play outside and use the public library when I was young; but I started playing computer games, using word processors, and chatting online at the age of 8. I got my first social networking account in my freshman year of high school. Therefore, I did spend many hours of my childhood isolated in front of a computer and had many adolescent social encounters on Facebook and MySpace. And yes, I was told as a child that I could be anything I wanted, and I have always taken that with me.
But now that I’m an adult, it turns out that what I want to be is a force of change. This is not rare. My personal planned path involves starting a comprehensive organization for spreading human goodness. But I have friends who want to become schoolteachers to help children develop, artists to inspire future youth to be better and more creative people, or business people with a conscience. This may mean that we demand a bit more recognition than our parents--we want to know we are making a difference in the way we intend. This may mean that we will turn down offers for mundane, pointless jobs, even if it means we cannot own a home by the age of 22. If you are worried that we will radically change social norms and the way the American economy works, then stay inside. But please do not be afraid that we are leading aimless lives, or that we do not have the motivation and inner resources to solve the problems before us. I promise we will prove those claims wrong.
As for our 17 hours a week online, well, that is mostly helping us. We are living in a global society. Neither of my parents have any friends in other countries, but I have had them since I was 14. I used social networking websites to make new friends based on causes I support, music I enjoy, and even the websites where I play games. Throughout the years, I have had close friends in Greece, Brazil, Cuba, the UK, and Australia, not to mention the American Midwest and West Coast. Note that the farthest I have ever traveled was from my home in northern New Jersey to Orlando, Florida. I believe that my tolerance for diverse backgrounds and optimism for change has been greatly influenced by collaborating online with people far away from me. Many times it has been the same way I would collaborate with people I actually know. On top of that, youth like me who start out shy and socially awkward can enhance their self-esteem and gain a sense of community with peers by interacting online.
There are also benefits to quicker, more efficient communication with people we already know. We can accomplish more now that we have the possibility of easily planning or changing a meeting at the last minute, and contacting each other anytime we want. You may criticize us for having important or emotionally charged conversations via the internet, but having the opportunity to think before we type can sometimes help us communicate more clearly and appropriately. Finally, does it really have to be a bad thing that we can research something in a fraction of the time our parents could?
If you have more questions, please ask one of us before you hit Google. It is hard to talk to a 5-year-old, but that was 15 years ago and now we're all grown up. Of course, these are all just my opinions and I have had unique experiences. But I was born a member of this generation, and I have known its members as friends, classmates, and enemies. If you have only known us as your children, and young people showing off to their friends in public, try to take my opinions into consideration.