Visit enough blogs and you’ll find a subtle yet pervasive debate raging: is Gen Y awful or awesome? Of course, Gen Y is like any other generation in that some of us are mature, creatively blossoming adults while others are… awful people. So what’s with all the discussion?
Gen Y differs from every past generation in that we are the first to face a series of changes brought on by technology, globalization, and economic/social change.
The question typically raised around the web is, “how are we dealing with it all?” However there is no definite answer, as it varies for each person. On the other hand it is worth looking into what we are dealing with in order to understand how Gen Y is unique from any other generation thus far.
If there exists an overarching theme for Gen Y, it’s most likely stress.
1. Soul-crushing student loan debt.
Some say bachelor’s degrees are the new high school diplomas. Others say go for a graduate’s degree, while in some fields a PhD is practically a necessity. One source estimates that college tuition in the US has gone up by more than 1250% since 1970. To pile on even more tension, a recent study claimed that the importance of a college degree is also increasing. Thus the wage gap is 20% larger for those without degrees than it was in 1965.
2. An unemployment explosion.
So what is the other factor that perfectly complicates rising student debt and an increasing need to earn a bachelor’s degree? That would be the massive unemployment rate of course. Gen Y-ers in the US aren’t the only ones suffering, with unemployment rates rising in Pakistan, China, Spain, Greece, and other countries.
3. Online and long distance dating.
Long distance dating didn’t used to be very practical. Besides occasional phone conversations or letters, how would you communicate? However, with things like skype, email, texting, and facetime, the tides have changed. Suddenly we are no longer choosing “the one” from a pool of our neighbors– we’re choosing from the entire world.
Not only are we carefully crafting profiles and meeting strangers for dates; we’re also trying to avoid dangerous scams and potential criminals looking to take advantage of naïve internet users.
4. Employers judging you by your social media accounts.
This is like someone prying into your window the evening before your job interview and taking notes. Of course, we do have complete control of what we share and how we choose to present ourselves on social media. However, not following the “think before you speak” rule can have more serious consequences than ever.
5. Being wired.
Ask any student or young professional how they’re feeling and they will likely tell you “tired” before anything else. Technology plays a huge role in this. However, the rapid rise of coffee as the global stimulant of choice certainly can’t be overlooked.
Couple this with the fact that employees are now expected to be “connected” to work at all times, and it’s no wonder Gen Y is burning the candle at both ends.
6. Shifting gender roles.
Sure it may not seem like a personal problem, but widespread social change often impacts the individual- whether we realize it or not. Young women feel the brunt of it as they learn to juggle children and careers (developing masculinity while maintaining femininity). Meanwhile, young men are grappling with how these changing roles affect their self-image and responsibilities (raising children, doing chores, and not letting a second breadwinner wound their pride).
7. Moving back in with parents.
Gen Y-ers have been far more likely to move back in with parents than previous generations were. For this and other reasons, we’ve been referred to as soft, entitled, stupid and, well… the worst.
Regardless of what people say, the housing market has changed drastically, making it much more challenging for average Gen Y-ers to buy a house. Moving back in with parents after college can lead to a slew of issues like low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression– not to mention a couple of bummed out parents who have to give you your bedroom back.
8. The craziest generation?
The American Psychological Associations says, “yup.” Gen Y-ers have more depression and anxiety than any other generation, according to a recent study.
Mental health issues may simply be a result of the torrent of stress-inducing situations listed above. However, anxiety and depression have a way of turning around and worsening those already complex problems. Double bummer.
9. Being blamed for technology.
When the Internet was in it’s infancy, Gen Y-ers were infants themselves. However when it comes to criticism, older generations are quick to shake their heads at high-tech young people.
Perhaps we should take our faces out of our laptops once in a while, but is it really our fault that technology rapidly developed, providing the easiest ways to accomplish most daily tasks? While a portion of Gen-Y is wasting their time with Facebook and Internet memes, many of us are using technology to be more productive.
10. An entrepreneurial spirit.
You may be thinking, “how is this a problem?” Gen Y is full of freelancers and gutsy startup creators, but there are plenty of complications that come with the seemingly ideal territory. These include job instability for freelancers and potential debt if a startup fails.
During childhood, Gen Y might’ve been told that they could be whatever they wanted. However, when they act on these encouragements in adulthood, skepticism prevails. One study found that only 1 in 10 parents encouraged their children towards a freelance career, while most expressed worries about stability.
While Gen Y has been granted the legroom to develop their idealism, the risk of failure is ultimately faced alone- and that’s yet another helping of stress.
Photo credit: Jhaymesisviphotography via Flickr