Much has been said of the generation of people born between 1978 and 2000, dubbed “the Millennials.” Memes abound on previous generations’ perceptions of Millennials as lazy, shallow, or technologically obsessed. On the other side, defenders of Millennials can point to innovations by people such as Mark Zuckerberg and Tumblr’s David Karp as evidence of the generation’s out of the box thinking and self-starting motivation. Similarly, one can see the use of social media for social revolution in such events as the Arab Spring. As the generation pushes further into adulthood, society is just starting to comprehend what kind of impact Millennials will have in the world. However, one thing that shows up in studies is the high rate of civic participation in this generation.
Despite the cultural perception of Baby Boomer hippies fighting for civil rights and against the Vietnam War, the Millennials Civic Health Index has found that Millennials vote, commit to community service, and volunteer in higher numbers that of their parents. As Millennials continue to age, the rate of volunteers continues to grow. Much of this is, true to the stereotypes of the generation, driven by mobile phone apps and social media. According to the Pew Research Center, 48% of people aged 18-29 decide to engage in the community to take on political causes based on what they see on social media. Furthermore, the political engagement of 57% of the same group occurs entirely on those same sites.
Some sections of government and organizations have zeroed in on this and have facilitated this through apps and social media. One example is the SpeakUpAustin app where residents of Austin, Texas can share ideas and help inform on policy. The app helped to build ideas such bike share hubs in the city and molded policy on the city’s plastic bag ordinance. Another example can be found in New Orleans where the city actually warned many of its citizens of the oncoming Hurricane Katrina through social media and continued to use social media for warnings and updates as the crisis rolled on.
Even the Obama Administration managed to use the digital trappings of Millennials to engage with the populace with the White House Social Hub, a one-stop center for all official White House social media. President Obama, First Lady Michelle, and Vice President Joe Biden had all participated in “fireside chats” on Google Plus. In recent times, politicians such as President Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders have used Twitter to engage with the public. As time goes on, both politicians and the constituents in the Millennial generation will utilize technology to engage with society’s issues.