Millennials and love
Daniel Barabasi | Thursday, October 9, 2014
The best part about being a millennial is listening to what our futures hold based on the expertise of the pre-iPhoners. We’re lazy. We don’t have a work ethic. Time agrees. Fox News agrees. CNN agrees. I guess the bipartisan divide really isn’t as bad as they say it is.
At least 25 percent of us will never get married. That’s a new one. I’ll add it to the list of things I can’t do, right under “playing with grandchildren in the snow.”
Our inability to say “I do” gets attributed to a variety of notions. Society expects us to get into the workforce and become productive contributors as soon as possible. Parents expect us to pay off student debts. We have to climb the social and professional ladders. Although these statements do seem valid, they don’t get to the root of the issue.
The older generations’ finger-wagging is partially right. Smart phones and internet access have degraded our attention span. We require more instant gratification to keep us intrigued. Furthermore, we’re constantly rewarded for our spontaneity, at least according to every success narrative. Being “out there” and ready to take on any task gets you noticed online, socially and professionally. Steve Jobs dropped out of college for a startup. So did Mark Zuckerberg. Look where they are now.
In this context, the idea of settling down sounds preposterous. A white gown leads to a family. Family leads to suburbia. Suburbia means a minivan and soccer tryouts and voice lessons and teacher conferences and this and that. You’ll be reliant on the schedules of those you love, but stuck nevertheless.
Marriage doesn’t have to be like this; there are married couples who don’t have kids. But still, there’s constant background pressure. In your 20s and 30s, you should be traveling the world! Explore a new city, meet new people, write a novel, learn a new language, do something you’ll regret. It’s how you’ll make the memories and connections that best shape you. But why does it have to be the last chance in life? Oh right, society wants us to be productive members and fall in love. And it’s a bit hard to jump on that discounted plane to Thailand when you’re thinking about how your significant other will react.
So love appears to be a lost phenomenon to us. Millennials say they don’t want to marry because they haven’t found the right person, or because they don’t feel financially stable. But perhaps, love has become too inaccessible. Now, love is a process. Spending the same amount of time attending events that you do attending to your love life can bring about tens or hundreds of unique stories. Perhaps not at the same depth, but a good socio-professional connection can prove more valuable than a deep story. Love doesn’t provide instant gratification.
Yet, this might prove to be wrong. Perhaps love and marriage are the consistencies we need in our lives as millennials. While everything around seems ceaseless in its variability and expectations, we can grab onto love to keep us sane. I certainly hope my cynicism is unfounded. If not, I wish us the best of luck.