Edward Snowden--exposed the truth about the NSA.
Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi--co-founded Dropbox.
Tavi Gevinson--is a feminist spokesperson, as well as a writer, actor, and singer.
Alexis Ohanian--co-founded Reddit.
What do these people have in common? They've influenced our society, certainly. They've changed individuals' experiences. Also, they're all millennials.
Except they can't be, because millennials spend all their time on Instagram and live in their parents' basements and have no drive or ambition. Everyone agrees, from your Great Aunt Bertha, with all her griping about the Twitter and the Google, to Pew Research Center, whose "How Millennial Are You?" quiz features questions inquiring whether you've watched more than an hour of television in the last twenty-four hours, whether you've gotten more than fifty texts recently, and whether you have a tattoo (nope, nope, and definitely not).
As a millennial, I'd like to respond to these criticisms of my generation, so here's a list of the reasons why millennials are fully-functioning, significant members of society. (Note: this is a direct response to the idea that millennials aren't motivated/are utterly useless/are a burden on the world in general. I'm not going to deny or endorse any preconceived notions of millennial behavior.) Of course, these are all opinions, but then again, so is the stereotype of the Basement-Dwelling Millennial.
1. We adapt well to change. New technologies are being invented (and invented, and invented). Millennials are the most technology-savvy generation because we've grown up alongside the development of the computer industry. While technology obsession is a point of criticism of millennials, it also means that, the same way that we've changed our lifestyles as computers and phones have become more advanced, we also adapt better to other changes. Perhaps that's why we're so optimistic; we're not struggling as we alter our lives to adapt to new ways of survival.
2. We're excellent with computers. Said technology has become so important in our lives that even non-millennials rely on it. Computers aren't a novelty anymore; they're a necessity. Ironically, even the most print-based industry--publishing--utilizes the Internet. I've read countless Writer's Digest articles advising aspiring writers to build their platforms on the Web by creating author websites (such as this one) and blogs (such as this one). In fact, I've read agent interviews that say blatantly, "[When I Google a prospective client, I'm] looking at whether I can find the person at all. Sometimes I can't, and that's almost always an instant pass." The message is clear: the world is moving online, and the better equipped you are technologically, the more likely it is that you'll thrive.
3. We're well-educated. A third of millennials ages 26-33 have at least one degree, which makes us the best-educated generation yet. (So clearly, we've done more than just loiter on street corners.) A better education gives us more opportunities to go into professions that we feel passionate about, and as a result, we're better at our jobs. It also allows us to make well-informed choices about our personal lives. And when colleges become less exclusive, there's also less of an prevalently elitist mindset among those who do go to college. And, as Malala Yousafzai (afore-mentioned influential millennial) said, "[Education is] like a precious gift. It's like a diamond."
4. We genuinely want to improve the world. Whatever our shortcomings, millennials do more than gripe about world issues; 47% of millennials have signed petitions or pledges for causes that they care about. Plus, 54% of millennials either aspire to start a business or already have one. Even social media (which has been viewed solely as a medium for sharing selfies) has been used as a tool for spreading social justice. I'm thinking specifically of the Leelah Alcorn tragedy, and how Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr have been used to spread awareness about trans* issues. Millennials' logic in taking action like this is that we're going to be living in this world for another two-thirds of a lifetime, so we want to alter it to fit our ideals.
5. We believe in equality. We've been fighting to get rid of gender roles and promote women's rights, we're the generation most in favor of mixed-race marriages, and the majority of us volunteer to help the needy. Go millennials!
A later version of this piece won a Gold Key in the 2017 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.