Why Millennials Attach More Value to Friendships
By Vicki Santillano | Divine Caroline
January 26, 2010
A few years ago, everybody freaked out over a new generation entering the workforce. Dubbed Millennials (though the labels “Generation Y” and “Generation Me” have also been thrown around), these people’s values and habits have been scrutinized by career specialists trying to predict their impact on the office environment. According to analysts, those born between the early 1980s and early 1990s are optimistic, diverse, open-minded, experimental, and technologically savvy and embrace multitasking like no other generation before them has. They demand creative freedom and won’t put their careers before their physical and emotional well-being. Of course, there are exceptions to every generation, but these are the characteristics most associated with Millennials.
The most oft-stated trait is that this generation is highly self-involved, compared with its predecessors. And it’s probably true—just count how many people you know aged fifteen to thirty that belong to social networks. But the focus on their “me first” tendencies has led to a mistaken assumption that they don’t care about much outside of themselves. In reality, it’s the value they place on others that characterizes Millennials the most.
Bros Before … No, Chicks Before … Well, You Know
According to a U.S. Census Bureau population survey in 2006, those aged eighteen to twenty-four years old were 20 percent more likely to be married in 1972 than young adults today are. In 1970, twenty-three was the average age for men to get married; for women, it was a little over twenty. In 2006, that number rose to twenty-seven for men and twenty-six for women. Part of that has to do with the fact that success and stability are increasingly tied to the individual, instead of to the family unit. But many Millennials are a little gun-shy about marriage. And given the amount of divorced parents out there, their hesitation comes as no surprise. Just as past generations taught them that jobs aren’t the only key to happiness, they also learned that marriage isn’t always the answer, either.
So if Millennials don’t look to careers or romantic relationships as primary sources of relief or comfort, what do they turn to? The answer, simply put, is their friends. In a survey Rebecca Huntly cited in her book, The World According to Y: Inside the New Adult Generation, most people in the sixteen-to-twenty-four age bracket put their platonic friendships before partnerships. Though much has been made of technology’s causing isolation and introversion, Millennials are more connected with each other than any other group because of it. Thanks to email, smartphones, social networks, and instant messaging, friends stay in touch almost effortlessly. When surveying young adults, the Pew Research Center found that over half had received or sent a text message in the past twenty-four hours. Peers are constantly tapped into, and therefore influenced by, each other.