I am a part of the millennial generation. I have a Facebook, a Twitter, an Instagram, and yes, from time to time I take great joy in watching shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and The X Factor. My everyday speech is littered with acronyms like LOL and my text messages are often sprinkled with hashtags.

Yes, today’s college students are a far cry from the “beatniks, radicals, and filthy speech advocates” that Ronald Regan once spoke about in the 1960s during his time as the governor of California.

Today’s youth culture is extremely plugged in and receptive to all forms of media. It’s extremely fascinating how much of our humor refers to various YouTube videos and celebrity mishaps, but it’s what keeps us on our toes and on the edge of our seats. However, while much of the generation is interested in popular culture, the numbers interested in current events don’t quite match up. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Millennials are “more civically and politically disengaged, more focused on materialistic values, and less concerned about helping the larger community than were GenX (born 1962-1981) and Baby Boomers (born 1946 to about 1961) at the same ages.”

However, the recent election seems to contradict the study, which was published earlier this year. According to Edison Research, Millennials represented 19 percent of the vote in this past election – and when you consider that youth constitute 21 percent of the voting-eligible population, it’s fair to say that they were represented fairly well.

So what, then, is the issue? In spite of the perceived image of Millennials as tech-addicted, materialistic, self-centered beings, they seem to turn out to important civic duties, such as voting. What is keeping Millennials from being a standout generation? How are Millennials keeping mostly silent about current issues of the nation and the world?

As someone who works with various social justice groups on campus, I believe that what Millennials lack is a driving emotion. Specifically, it seems that the college-age youth of today seem to be lacking the motivating force of anger.

Back in the 1960s, during the heyday of the Free Speech Movement, tuition at Berkeley was kept relatively low. Now with tuition at American institutions being very high, it is important to note that two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt. With so many students feeling pressured by debt, there’s no wonder that the fighting spirit has become subdued.

Additionally, it seems that with so many television shows, movies, websites, celebrities, etc. to catch up on, a millennial has more than enough to be pacified and kept away from matters such as wars or global politics. With almost every person familiar with laptops, DVRs, smartphones, and streaming video, we are able to catch up on pop culture on our own time.

This, then, leads us to one of the biggest problems in motivating Millennials to act: An increasing value of individualism. With youth more concerned with their own individual power, there comes less focus on the group or the collective. This is why the Quebec student union strikes would have difficulty transferring over the United States; with the Quebecois culture already focusing on the importance of the group, students were able to better organize protests. Organized groups are better able to empathize with its members.

There isn’t much motivating the Millennials to act. In fact, it seems with the threat of student debt and the alluring distraction of media and technology, Millennials won’t be moved to act in large numbers until they feel that their well-being is extremely threatened – which is difficult, seeing as how the individualistic nature of the Millennial can prevent the youth from relating to one another.

Youth is a fleeting thing, and I believe it is best spent engaging with friends, family, politicians, professors  – beyond the shiny screen of the smartphone. If given the choice between the office chair and a boisterous march into the streets, I believe the Millennials should take to the streets. We have all our lives to sit in chairs, after all.

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