Op-Ed: Is Everything on Fire? A Millennial Perspective

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No matter what side of the political playing field you are on, it’s a feeling similar for everyone: everything is on fire. Everything is chaotic, everyone has differing opinions, and everyone’s opinions are steadfast and important. EVERYONE’S OPINIONS ARE IN ALL CAPS. Since the election began, social media has been insufferable, the news has been overwhelming, and republicans and democrats have never felt more divided. Society has continued to feel combative. Laws are changing, more people are upset, and people are upset about others being upset. Is our millennial perspective on the current social climate accurate, or is there another reason everything feels like it’s on fire? Is it just us, or is this our new social reality?

Becoming more informed

As our generations get older, it’s common that they become more informed about the world around them. Is it possible that this social atmosphere was building while all of us were focused on our friends, going to school, and discussing gossip rather than politics? Maybe we are just now realizing how crazy the world is because we no longer find political news and stories to be boring. Now that we know just how affected we are by policy decisions, maybe we are paying more attention to how the world reacts to them.

On the other hand, maybe things weren’t this bad in previous years because preceding generations didn’t have the ability to be as informed as we are now. The amount of news outlets and information wasn’t as overwhelming as it is today. Not only are people in general more informed than ever before, but younger people are becoming more aware at the same time.

News saturation

The saturation of the news is one of the reasons that people are more informed now than they have been. The news has become a lot more competitive with many different organizations and citizen journalists reporting on events live. With the 24 hour news cycle, it’s easy to know what is happening without even meaning to find it. It shows up on our Facebook walls, Twitter feeds, and in our social interactions. Despite people being hit in the face with news all day, they are less engaged in the entire story. They read the headline and move on. They know there is conflict in Syria but have no context. People are happy with knowing “what” and nothing else – hence the popularity of fake news, misleading headlines, and clickbait.

The saturation of news is obviously creating the feeling that everything is on fire and terrible. The old adage that “ignorance is bliss” is true in mind but not in reality. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get away from. Is news saturation creating the illusion that things are worse, or are things really worse? It’s probably a bit of both.

The role of social media

In addition to social media playing a major role in how we are getting our news, it’s also connecting more people than ever before. This shapes our societal perception in a number of ways given the opinions of those around us that are super abundant on many social media platforms. These days it’s pretty easy to find out someone’s opinion on social media. Your surroundings may be giving you an inaccurate perception of the rest of America. If you come from an abundantly red or blue state, if many of your friends on Facebook are younger or older, or if many of the celebrities you follow on Twitter lean left or right, you can basically expect your social media to lean one way or the other creating a skewed perception of reality.

Not only can social media sway your understanding of the beliefs of our country as a whole, it’s really changed how people interact and get organized. Facebook groups and events are created to bring together like-minded people – it’s made a huge impact on things like protesting. Something as simple as a hashtag on Twitter can create an entire movement. It’s given tons of people a voice and a way to interact with each other. This is not always a positive thing, but it has changed society dramatically.

The rise of social consciousness

It seems like there’s always a protest, a cause, a concern, a fundraiser, an event, or a post about an issue happening around the world. Are things becoming so bad that there are more causes to get behind, or have they always been there? Chances are that they’ve always been there and our consciousness of these social issues is what’s rising – not the issue itself. Our prison systems have needed reform for a long time, but our increased empathy and knowledge of the system are what’s increasing. The environment, animal rights, women’s issues, race issues, etc. have all required attention for years. The more informed we are and the more news we read, the more we understand about these issues we may not have known before.

The millennial generation is one that is extremely socially conscious – probably as a result of the information they are overloaded with. They are a generation that cares and strives to make a difference. Many millennials recently took part in the #DeleteUber campaign, guided by their social consciousness even though many reviews suggest that Uber may edge out competitors in some instances. Millennials pay more to support businesses they believe in because millennial perspective is to think globally and act locally. This rise in social consciousness may cause younger generations to have a stronger response to socially damaging policies and beliefs.

What is real and what is millennial perspective?

Right now, America is experiencing a big change and many are unhappy with it. Many weren’t happy with the last one. Someone will always be unhappy. Protesting, marches, organized events, and calls for action are not uncommon in situations like these. Our perspective is that this is the worst it’s ever been because for us, it is the worst it’s ever been. Is it the worst it’s ever been in the history of America? Not even close. However, that does not mean that our nation is not in danger. People feel, and are allowed to feel, scared and unsafe as a result of what is happening in our country.

Our social media and Twitter feeds reflect a millennial perspective, and not an accurate representation of the rest of the U.S. or the world. You may be fighting with your family or friends more than you ever have, and that’s probably due to a culmination of things like it being an election year, your own interests changing, and an abundance of news – both real and fake.

Is everything really on fire? Yes and no. It’s hard to deny why people are scared. People are allowed to feel like everything is falling apart, but it’s important to note that our millennial perspective isn’t broad enough to tell where reality lies. Truthfully, we will probably be okay; things have been worse and our country has persevered. The important thing to do is to act on these fires and not watch them burn.

What do you think?

Written by Chelsy Ranard

Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She loves embarrassing television, listens to talk radio, and likes her cat more than she likes most people even if the feeling isn’t mutual.

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