In interviewing young people, it strikes me that in some ways, this generation is a return to the hippie era. Among a select group of mostly college-graduates from more affluent, educated families, there is decided a turn away from consumerism and toward a more do-it-yourself ethos, where leaving a small footprint is the goal.
Like the hippies before them, this most recent crop of 20-somethings is shunning the crass commercialism that (rightly or wrongly) defined the generation (and the nation) before them–Generation X. Although GenX has is most often thought of as the generation of cynics and ironists, they also came of age amid a riotous commercialism and easy affluence (if only on paper). They knew how to spend money. It was during their 20s that we began to hear tales of wild spending and burdensome credit-card debt. Marketing thoroughly filtered into their lives in new and insidious ways (to wit: stealth marketing campaigns with leggy blondes who “spontaneously” order a Skye or Grey Goose vodka and gush about it for all to hear–all the while on the payroll of Skye or Grey Goose. Homes were getting bigger, and consumption was ever more conspicuous.
The most current generation– Millenials — is, like their Birkenstock-wearing forebearers, seeking a simpler life with more meaning than can be found at the mall. They are seeking a connection in their work, and in their nonwork lives. In their nonwork lives this is exemplified by a quest for smaller, purer production, and an embrace of individualism and the spirit of the garage tinkerer. They are embracing handmade crafts, small-batch beers, artisanal cheesemaking, farm-to-table food– a DIY ethos that captures perhaps the rejection and retreat from overly slick, overproduced mass marketing of Miller, Dole, and Kraft Foods. They are flocking to Maker’s Faires, where tinkerers and inventors and innovators share their creations.
In their work lives, they are embracing also a generous spirit of volunteerism and giving back. Organizations like Teach for America are seeing record numbers of applications (even before the Recession), and many more Millennials are seeking work in the nonprofit world than before, not to mention the thousands serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
They are also fearless in their belief that they can change, maybe not the world, but at least their own course. They are doing this through entrepreneurship or, as one young woman told her peers: “just start something. Take a chance and start something new.” And of course, they have an entirely new and powerful set of tools to “just do something” with–social media, the internet, and digital tools. With a strong belief in themselves, this group of young adults is beginning to question the status quo, on anything from the value of a four-year degree to the proscribed route through adulthood.
But this movement is not universal. In many respects, it is a story of two Americas. As in the 1960s and 1970s, not everyone was donning tye-dye and putting flowers in their hair. There was a large population–a majority most likely– who had nothing to do with the hippies. They went to work, married, had kids, started lives, and took the more traditional path, albeit with a few new twists. The same is true today….
Continued via… Source: A new generation of “hippies” seeking meaning beyond the Mall | Psychology Today