I recently saw a poster banning the use of hoverboards on campus, and as I went spiraling into deep thought about what this meant for my future, the future of my peers and the future of our generation, I realized that the hoverboard is so much more than just a piece of plastic that occasionally bursts into flames. In fact, it’s a technological consequence of a freedom of ingenuity and expression earned and passed on to us by our forebears, and it provides us with an opportunity for some much needed self-reflection.
It seems natural to look to the past in the hopes of better understanding the present. And it’s easy to do so because we can trace every advancement (whether technological, societal or industrial) backward in time to understand our current state of affairs.
In our own lives, we’ve been spoonfed a particular history of our nation, culture and world, mainly through the narrative style of news media. Given everything we’re bombarded with daily, it’s more than fair to wonder why the world is the way it is.
But maybe the question we’re really asking is, “Why are people the way they are?” Why is the Millennial generation, of which undergraduate students at Loyola are all a part of, the way it is? Scrolling through Facebook, it doesn’t take long to see at least one article calling us self-absorbed, entitled or overly sensitive on the one hand, or passionate, socially conscious and idealistic on the other.
After six months of dedicated work, on April 7, the Catholic Studies Program will hold its third annual John Courtney Murray, S.J., Forum — a student-produced and student-led discussion that will focus on being a Millennial. It is this upcoming forum which brings us to the question of how we assess ourselves and who gets to dictate and define the Millennial generation.
Thanks to the birth of social media and web-based news, Millennials have become the most talked about and scrutinized generation. But of course, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, only one-third of Millennials subscribe to the label. No wonder they say we’re self-absorbed — the majority of us are too busy with our personal lives to even care what others say about us. So what do we do with this? Do we follow the two-thirds of the crowd and disregard what other generations are attempting to imprint on us? Or do we take it and change it to what we want it to represent?
Coming to understand ourselves as individuals, and likewise as a generation, seems to be a process of assessing both where we came from — the culture, technology and philosophy of generations before us — as well as where we are now, including what we’re really like in light of what others have to say about us and what we have to say about ourselves.
We have a grand opportunity to mold ourselves, to leave the sort of mark and impression that we feel should be left. The forum, which will be held in the Damen Den from 6 to 9 p.m., will give us the opportunity to throw around these questions and ideas. And we should throw them around, because I would rather not be known only for some hoverboards that eventually combusted. Millennials are more than that.
John Orgovan is a junior psychology and philosophy major.