If you are an educator of any kind, or have had any slight, professional involvement with the millennial generation, you have most likely been exposed to the very persuasive words of Simon Sinek. His viral speech about millennials has been viewed over 19 million times across the globe, and has pretty much become the flavor-of-the-month mantra of the ‘progressives’ within the educational field. In my own personal experience, I have lost count of the times it has been shared with me; it has popped up as recommended viewing or I have been made to sit through it at a personal development day. It comes as little surprise! Who can resist Sinek’s charismatic demeanor, the teary shots of the audience members or the emotionally stirring piano music playing in the background? I was completely on board with his message the first time I saw the clip, which even led me to a self-imposed social media exile, leaving my phone at home on outings, for a while. However, after further experience in the classroom dealing with these ‘millennials’ in the flesh, my opinion on the youth’s relationship with technology has transformed again. So much so, that now I see Sinek’s message as more ‘regressive’ than progressive.
WATCH THE SIMON SINEK VIDEO ABOVE - COURTESY OF BE INSPIRED
It is now a well-held tradition for the older generation to trash the younger generation, branding them with the usual stereotypes. These include terms that Sinek lists himself, such as being ‘narcissistic’, ‘lazy’ and ‘entitled’. These titles are found most when describing the youth’s relationships with new technology. Humanity’s fear of innovation and the widespread use of new technologies is not new. The World War I generation feared the radio, the World War II generation feared the television, the baby boomers feared video games and now generation X fears social media. Humans are creatures of habit who fear change. It is a natural cycle, moving from embracing modernization as a kid, to fearing societal revolution as an adult. I do not believe that the sky is falling in, however. Why? Because I believe that technology does not change us, it exposes what we already are.
A major disagreement that I have with Sinek’s message is the notion that today’s youth are not experiencing any deep and meaningful relationships. Through my personal observations working within a school, I can appreciate that how the kids of today interact has certainly changed from traditional methods. This may seem like a loss of ideals to the older generation, but ‘kids these days’ get just as much social interaction as they have done previously, it just has taken a different form. It is very easy to see video gaming as time wasting, until you realise that it is the only way an international student can interact with his friends back in Asia. It is easy to see Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook as a self-esteem crushing wastes of time, until you look a little deeper and realise these social media platforms allow students to stay connected to their friends more than ever before.
In my own lifetime, I have seen the growth of video games, virtual reality, voice technology, smart phones and even the internet. Arguably, these innovations have been the most important for society since the invention of the wheel. With the smart phone, students harbor a piece of technology in their pockets that is more advanced than anything Ronald Regan, or any US President before him, used to run the free world. Smart phones are what modern society runs through, whether we like it or not. It is not just the youth either, this goes for everyone.
Radio, television, movies, and even social interaction have all been combined into one compact device. I am not saying that this is not something to be concerned about. I thoroughly agree with Sinek that youth’s exposure to some of the elements of today’s smart phone usage need to be monitored. However, I believe Sinek does not give today’s millennial generation enough credit, and they are coping just fine with modern technology. Hell, I graduated from school in 2013, and students these days are already savvier than me when it comes to classroom tech and lingo. The crucial things that Sinek states we have lost, like long-term life fulfillment, or social relationships, have not died, they have simply transformed, as has society, into something new. I am not denying its importance, but I refuse to become Chicken Little, screaming that the sky is falling in.