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Millennials Talk A Lot About Social Justice Issues Without Actually Taking Action, Studies Find

A number of recent studies have indicated that, while our generation might be passionate about political and other activist issues, we don’t seem super willing to take actual action to effect change. This is made even easier by social media (look up “hashtag activism”), where we are able to feel like we participated in political or social justice activism without actually doing much.

This feeling of validation makes us kind of complacent, because we think we know all about the issues and feel good about spreading the word, according to Broadly. “‘The brain is always at work for the path of least resistance,’” according to Derrick Feldmann, president of Achieve, a research foundation that studied millennial activist trends.

In a separate study, it was discovered that young people who actually get involved with the causes they are passionate about are seriously in the minority. “While 68 per cent of young adults talk about issues such as animal cruelty and human rights both online and off, 36 per cent took action and even fewer, 23 per cent, have taken to the streets to protest,” according to The Independent.

The same study found that millennials might spend 28 minutes a week talking about climate change, 38 minutes talking about ethical living and 44 minutes talking about human rights, but a tiny number of those folks are actively involved in social justice work, even if it’s sporadic.

Some of these trends might demonstrate why only about 50 percent of eligible voters aged 18-29 voted in this year’s election. In a study from Tufts University, it was found that even in states highly important to the electoral vote, only 55 percent of young people voted. The study also found that while more young people are becoming more liberal, they might also be experiencing disillusionment with the two-party system and don’t see the Democratic ticket as one that can help them. This might help explain why millennials are taking less action—they don’t know how they can.

Feldmann suggested to Broadly that activist and other organizations need to give their supporters paths to action that are clear and legitimately manageable. “’We need to be led at times to go and act next and do things,’” says Feldmann.  

This isn’t all to say that conversation isn’t important—it is, and that’s where these movements get their start. But we have to be more willing to get our hands dirty and do the work that follows. It’s hard and it’s drawn out, but who are we to talk about how infuriated we are by the injustices in the world without actually doing anything about them? We have the privilege to have this knowledge, and we have to put our privilege to use in compassionate and open-minded ways.

Margeaux Biché

Columbia Barnard

Margeaux Biché is a current senior at Barnard College living in New York City. During her freshman year, she studied at the George Washington University in D.C., where she wrote for The GW Hatchet. She is a Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies major and is passionate about social justice. While she does not know exactly where she'll take her degree, she hopes she can contribute to the advancement of marginalized peoples through legal and/or activist work. Chocolate covered pretzels are her favorite food, Rihanna is her favorite musician and her go-to talent is her ability to wiggle her ears. Margeaux loves dogs, hiking and her hometown basketball team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, all of which are oft-featured on her Instagram account. Twitter | LinkedIn