Why young people are happy

By Katie Kieffer

Image credit: "sunlight smile" by espresso marco on Flickr via Creative Commons.

Image credit: “sunlight smile” by espresso marco on Flickr via Creative Commons.

The latest Pew Research Center poll shows that young people (ages 18 – 28) are happier now than they have been in over 30 years. Why is this? Aren’t we in the middle of a financial meltdown in America? Aren’t the costs of living going up? Aren’t young people losing their jobs? If you are down on America or down on your life, I’ll help you change your mindset to match that of today’s youth. I promise you, you’ll be happier for it.

I believe young people today are happier for two reasons: First, most Millennials want to live more like grownups and less like their parents who sometimes act like babies. And, second, they understand and are excited by the opportunities America has to rebound out of recession and back to greatness. Let me explain:

Young people find happiness in maturity

Young people today seem happy to act like old souls. It’s suddenly cool to be retrospective and old-fashioned. If Lady Gaga, 2010‘s top-earning pop star, says she’s “old-fashioned” in her personal life, you know it’s cool to be old-fashioned. It doesn’t matter if Gaga really acts old-fashioned when she’s at home or not. The fact is, she markets herself that way because she knows “old” is the new black.

The hottest new fashion pundit is a 14-year-old named Tavi Gevinson, whose fashion sense snubs the main-stream ” adult formula” for attractiveness: Super sexy clothes + Smashed-on makeup = Hot. In contrast, Gevinson’s sense of “cool” involves wearing lots of layers and occasionally dying her hair grey.

Yep, that’s right, grandma-grey. Maybe she’s not sexy, but she’s definitely cool. So cool, in fact, that she attends events like the Chanel couture show in Paris and receives 35,000 hits a day on her blog.

Tavi Gevinson. Image credit: "photoshoot!" by stweedy on Flickr via Creative Commons.

Tavi Gevinson. Image credit: “photoshoot!” by Spencer Tweedy on Flickr via Creative Commons.

Oh yeah, and who was the top-selling artist of 2010? It wasn’t S&M artist, RiRi. It was Taylor Swift. Young Americans just can’t download enough music from the girl whose vintage sense of romance comes through in her songs and her daily life, where she has confessed she likes boys who accept her penchant for making crafts with glitter.

Meanwhile “grown-up,” middle-aged Americans are skipping work and getting fake doctor’s sick notes in Wisconsin so that they can walk in protest despite the fact that the average public sector salary and benefits package is already far greater than that of the private sector. I’d call them “cry babies,” but that might hurt their tender feelings.

Young people see real solutions

Second, I believe today’s young people are happy because they see the way out. They are flexible, creative, ethical and innovative enough to understand what needs to be done to end this recession:  Things like economic reform, austerity and ending our costly and bloody attempts at policing the world, as I discussed here.

Pew reports that, in the past few years, more Americans consider themselves “independents” than in the past seventy years. Furthermore, most young people (40 percent) consider themselves “moderate.” Just 29 percent call themselves “liberal” while 28 percent consider themselves “conservative.”

Young people have begun to move away from the Democratic party and are increasingly giving the President less-than-favorable approval ratings. They generally question whether the U.S. should continue to push her military might around the Middle East. To me, this indicates that most young people are more issues-focused and less likely to jump on a partisan bandwagon and proudly wear a big fat “D” or “R” on their chests like their parents may have.

Yes, many Millenials consider themselves “socially liberal,” but that doesn’t mean that they all think the government should tell them how to live their personal lives. In fact, in 2010, Pew did another study showing that a majority of Americans, regardless of whether they considered themselves to be “Republican,” “Democrat” or “Independent,” view and understand the terms “states rights,” “family values,” “civil liberties,” “civil rights” and “capitalism” in a positive way.

Since Millennials favor ideas like states rights and individual freedom, I think that they prefer to make personal choices rather than bow to sweeping federal mandates when it comes to social issues. My assessment is that Millenials believe it’s best to give citizens the opportunity to choose the type of social structure they want in their own states.

Recent Pew studies show that, since 2007, young people are more likely than their parents to say that America should put economic stability before environmental concerns: “Surprisingly, declines since 2007 in support for economic sacrifices to protect the environment have been particularly large among young people and political independents.”

Perhaps the hyperventilating about a hypothetical global warming crisis comes from Al Gore’s generation, and the paranoia just getting pushed on Millenials. How “inconveniently true” for young people who now live in a country that won’t drill for it’s own oil, but is more than happy to buy it from the Saudis. Certainly most young people, including me, care about the conserving the earth, but no one can blame our generation for “Climategate.”

I think young people are “re-defining” the term liberal. To them “liberal” really means “free.” Without realizing it, I think many young people are moving closer to the original or “classical” definition of liberal from the nineteenth century which emphasized free markets and individual liberties.

Well, after all this “grown-up” talk, I think I’ll pull on my warm knee highs and a granny sweater like Tavi Gevinson and enjoy a hot cup of tea to celebrate happiness and freedom.

Image credit: "Tea Glass" by Astro Guy on Flickr via Creative Commons.

Image credit: “Tea Glass” by Jason Rowe on Flickr via Creative Commons.

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  1. Dennis says:

    I find your article contains insightful observations. I would like to offer one of my own.

    I think experience is a critical component in regards to your observations. As I recall my experiences in college I remember seeing so many happy youth. Many wish to not be like their parents. Full of passionate idealism. Often in opposition to their parent’s values. A certain rebellious factor. All part of their personal growth and finding themselves.

    Combine these with a certain level of arrogance and elitism. Something that can be mitigated with some experience. I knew lots of college kids who read a couple of books by dead philosophers and then they behaved as if they were the most intelligent person alive and qualified to weigh in on any and all topics. A lot of youth in college fall into trap in which by virtue of being a college student they’re now superior to the older generation and those who aren’t in college. Such students tend to be highly impressionable and easy pickings for ideological indoctrination. It’s no wonder many youth fall in with the left.

    But experience is a thing that comes with time. And experience has a mitigating factor on many aspects of our thought, values, and beliefs. I don’t mean to imply that liberal youths will turn into conservative youths with experience at all mind you. My contention is that lack of experience blinds the youth to some aspects of reality. Without experiencing these aspects one lacks a certain wisdom pertaining to it. By virtue of a wealth of experience many youths dwell in a world of theory full of lofty dreams and idealistic passions. Most of which will either be altered or reinforced by experience as they acquire it.

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