Friday, 8 October 2010

Gen Y: Rise of The Pragmatists

On Wednesday I attended the launch of The Faith of Generation Y by Sylvia Collins-Mayo, Bob Mayo and Sally Nash, which the Daily Telegraph responded to on its front page on Monday.

Bob and Sylvie are friends (well of course, but also friends of mine), so this is a bit of a plug.

But in the course of the co-authors' presentation of some key findings, one of many interesting observations struck me in particular. Bob explained that Generation Y people are not so reactive to organised religion as their elders in Generation X, who tended to have had it forced on them as kids. Instead, Gen Y'ers are just as interested to hear what religion is and what it stands for, as any of the other spiritual messages out there. However, they aren't interested in whether the message represents the 'truth' in some dogmatic sense, but pragmatically whether it 'works'. So you will find a Gen Y person chilling out in a church because it is a chilled, spiritual place to be, rather than because he 'believes'.

Bob says this attitude is also encouraged by Gen X people as parents (and teachers?), who tend to be friends with their kids and tolerant or permissive of independence, critical thought and discussion, rather than more authoritarian or controlling as their own parents' generation tended to be.

I suspect this has at least two broad implications for all of our society's public and private institutions. First, while other research shows there has been a decline to low levels of trust in our institutions, this may be driven by and limited to Gen X'ers, as a result of the previous generations' tendency to trust in or tolerate institutions, regardless of how badly they perform. Secondly, Gen Y may be free of the emotionally reactive element of Gen X's attitude to institutions, but very focused on what those institutions stand for - what they promise - and whether those institutions 'work' or perform accordingly.

So if you thought the internet and Web 2.0 marked a revolution in personalisation, you ain't seen nothing yet.
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