As a card-carrying millennial, I totally get it. Anyone a little bit younger than me makes me feel so, very old.
Art by Gian Nicdao
The future is Filipino
EVERYTHING IS EMBARRASSING - Margarita Buenaventura (The Philippine Star) - July 29, 2018 - 12:00am

We judge the youth for being married to their cellphones, but what are they really up to online? The answer might surprise you.

Young people are always on their cellphones! Young people are always on their cellphones, ignoring their families, watching porn, worshipping pagan gods, giving their location to potential murderers, taking selfies, pretending to have witnessed martial law, plotting to overthrow the government, having opinions, and going to Starbucks!!!

How dare you, youths. How dare you!

As a card-carrying millennial, I totally get it. Anyone a little bit younger than me makes me feel so, very old. We millennials were born in a largely analog world, but we grew up slowly understanding what an increasingly modern world really is. Despite growing up around it, technology makes age gaps more apparent each day; information comes in at a pace so quick that FOMO (the fear of missing out) comes at you real hard. The news cycle lasts for hours, not days, and so we feel the need to constantly be connected, lest we get left behind. We can celebrate good news stories at 9 in the morning, only to worry about something else entirely just three hours later. We rely on apps that can change our lives — remember when the idea of Waze was so mind-blowing? — and each day, these apps become more intelligent, more attuned to our needs that we begin to rely on them more than we do our own skills and instincts.

This is the world that we live in now, but imagine being young, a Gen Z individual, at this very moment: this is the world that they’ve always lived in. This is the world that they’ve always known.

It’s there, I think, that our misunderstanding of youth really comes from. We’ve created a world for them that we don’t quite understand, and yet we question the ways in which the youth have navigated this architecture. It wasn’t a teenager who invented the internet, or made smartphones, or created oppressive world systems. Older generations did. What we don’t get is what they are doing with these volatile, sometimes dangerous creations. What the hell are young people doing on their cellphones all the time?

Everything you think that young people are doing on their phones? Truth be told, they’re probably doing. They’re not — and we’re not – saints, and so it’s true that many of them are probably up to no good. By that, I mean that apart from the shallow selfies and filtered vacation photos, they’re out there making a racket and voicing out their opinions.

Millennials and the Gen Z are producing some of the most irreligious, politically left, socially and environmentally aware individuals that the world has ever known. This is perhaps borne out of their strong sense of justice, and a response to their desire to undo everything wrong in the world. Young people today sit in their cellphones to educate themselves and to learn what they can do, whether it be from the comfort of their own homes or even on the streets. There are so many avenues to learn and be creative that to a young person, there is more than one way to be a businessperson or artist. Thanks to technology, young people are growing to become empathic: they don’t need to have witnessed history to know that certain things shouldn’t happen again.

Youth movements have always made an impact all over the world. From the Vietnam War protests in the 1960’s to 2010’s Arab Spring (which relied heavily on social media to mobilize an international revolution), social changes have happened thanks to the young — forget the “apathetic youth” image so often portrayed in media and pop culture. The youth has always been at the forefront of many social and civil movements, and these two generations — the millennials and the Gen Z — are no exception.

So what is important to a young person today? To many of them, it’s important that fighting for one cause means another does not get left behind. Intersectionality has never been more integral to today’s youth movement, because you can’t fight for women’s rights without considering the needs of poor women, transwomen, indigenous women, or colored women. You can’t fight worker’s rights if you don’t consider that the LGBT+ workforce is often discriminated against in the workplace, or how education plays a big role in one’s career prospects. Pushing for mental health awareness and reproductive health rights mean nothing if you don’t consider those who cannot afford treatment or medication. Supporting Filipino-made brands mean nothing if employees are not fairly compensated and the products aren’t made sustainably. To care for the environment means nothing if corporations refuse to change entire systems that produce waste and hurt communities affected by their daily operations.

This is an ongoing lesson for young people today, and every day is an opportunity to grow from yesterday’s learning. Digital movements may seem insignificant, but the last few years have proven that they’ve been able to effect change on multiple levels. Hashtags like #MeToo have uncovered sexual predators in numerous industries. In the Philippines today, a movement called #LoveIsAllYouNeed aims to reach out to legislators to pass the Anti-Discrimination Bill. Even in smaller numbers, on their own, the youth are beginning to realize that enough is really enough. It is time to undo mistakes. It’s time to make the world a better place.

And that is the fire that burns in every young person today: hope. When we asked young people from different backgrounds what they want to see in their country and in their communities, the answer is simple — they want more opportunities, improved systems, and cleaner environments. They want to fight for the possibility of a better future, and they are young enough, dumb enough, idealistic enough to believe that it’s possible. So the next time you see someone glued to their cellphones, there’s a huge possibility that they’re either playing Plants vs. Zombies or starting a social revolution on Twitter that wil reach thousands of people both online and offline. Or maybe they’re doing both.

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