Millennials and Social Activism: The “Not-As-Selfish-As-You-Think” Generation

We’ve all heard it over and over again. From the middle-aged newscasters on CNN to the cover of Time Magazine, Millennials are infamously regarded as a lazy, selfish, and spoiled generation. We have become interchangeable with the caricature of a selfie-obsessed Instagram star. Even outside the realm of pop culture, we have been criticized for being self-interested because we don’t settle down with families or buy houses as early as previous generations. Luckily, we tossed those historical markers of success out like last week’s recycling. My generation decided that changing the world would be a better marker of our success.

For millennials, social activism is more than a tagline, it’s our way of life.  A survey taken by TBWA/Worldwide & Takepart found that 7 out of 10 Millennials would describe themselves as social activists. Every little bit helps. Millennials will often silently boycott stores whose policies we’ve deemed egregiously unequal and exploitive. I, myself, can think of at least three that I won’t step into (even when it means passing up a substantially cheaper TV). We have water filters in our homes to avoid using wasteful plastic water bottles; we even re-fill the pitchers in our friends’ kitchens purely out of habit.  It is so normal in my group of friends that I flinch if I see an empty pitcher. Is that weird? I digress. Even professionally, we will investigate a company’s commitment to social issues, particularly those that resonate with us.  In the Deloitte 2015 Millennial Survey, a whopping 60% of responders cited “a sense of purpose” as a primary reason for being with their current employers.  I don’t have any numbers to prove it, but I’d be willing to guess that many of us have sacrificed pay, benefits, accolades, and fancy Christmas parties in order to work for an organization that is as dedicated to social issues as we are.