Sometime in 2005, I began observing a subset of society: the youth. It stemmed from independent studies I read that began labeling a generation born in the Eighties as generation Y or millennials as they are more commonly referred to now. In the Philippine, some call them philennials.
Born in the age of information technology, they only know a world equipped with computers that keep getting faster, smarter and smaller. At a young age, they easily find access to mobile/smart phones. Many of them don’t have a proper concept of ”dial’ a number. The thumb for them has become a more useful finger, and popularity can come in an instant through a unique Youtube post.
Millennials have taken a quantum leap in the understanding of both big and micro data, in storing knowledge, mutli-tasking, borderless communications, various forms of artistic expression, and scientific breakthroughs, among many others. They are known to be confident, self-expressive, free spirited, upbeat and very open to change. They learn through traveling with cheaper transport options now available. They can be anywhere and still be able to navigate through Google maps and Waze. They have gadgets that provide greater stimulation to both the left, and especially the right side of the brain which tends to explain such diverse set of skills and talents. Even toddlers find their way into features or ‘apps’ that seemingly go beyond their years. My four-year old niece, for instance, learned to take selfies on her own at age two, when one fine day, she was left alone playing with an iPad in her crib.
Millenials are brilliant and multi faceted. They have a way of straddling between physical and cyber worlds. I find the need to immerse in their activities, struggling at times, because they can be steps ahead of my thinking process. It is highly likely that the mainstream educational system is inadequate to tap their true potential. Some parents opt to home school them. Fortunately, they are also capable of self studying. The internet empowers them where every bit of information is a hashtag away. Parents have little way of knowing what and how much information their children are picking up these days. Luckily, they no longer have to invest in voluminous encyclopedias which have been conveniently replaced by Wikipedia, Google, and the like that readily provides links to primary sources of information.
Many millennials find odd jobs and create new jobs in the cyber world, which leads to a more immeasurable underground economy. My friend’s nephew was thought to be a bum spending most of his time tinkering with his computer. Frustrated, his father threw him out of the house, only to find out later that he could afford to rent his own apartment from savings and income he earned developing apps. I also know people who sell items through Facebook or Instagram.
Behaviors have changed. Most noticeable is how much quieter the youth has become. In restaurants, it is typical to see a group of teenagers communicating not by talking, but by messaging each other and posting selfies or group photos through Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Meanwhile, Youtube has become a strong alternative to movies or TV shows, itself becoming a free medium for all sorts of audio-visual expressions. It has transformed a host of unknown personalities into Youtube sensations and celebrities. What my generation thought impossible has become ordinary realities for this generation.
Millenials live in a global world. It knows little of the biases of the three-dimensional world I was born in. They can be in different places, and simultaneously communicate with their friends and family either through Skype or Viber. They can speak, write and/or understand different languages and know the most current trends in food and fashion, the arts and sciences. As an example, I have another niece who taught herself to speak and write Korean mainly from the internet.
Millennials can easily go beyond our solar system, see the endless expanse of the Universe and have a deeper understanding of Earth’s resources, its flora and fauna. Hence, there is greater consciousness and concern for the environment. Sustainability has become a buzzword. In the investment world where many millennials in their thirties now work, there is an increasing number of institutional funds that require public companies to integrate their environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs with their businesses and properly disclose them. Working for one such public company, I am learning new ways of disclosure to service the needs of ESG funds and rating companies.
The good news is the Philippines has an abundance of Philennials. The country has one of the youngest populations in the world. With an average age of 23 years old, Philennials have become the mainstream of Philippine society. A good number now in their thirties and highly productive, married and taking care of their own Philennial children.
It isn’t an accident that many work in outsourcing companies that provide cross border services. Philennials are wired to do the task. Many cities now operate 24/7 where hundreds of thousands of Philennials work at night and sleep during the day, talking English with different accents as they service customers half a world away through telephones, while facing at least two computer monitors that help them probe and address technical issues. Borderless in many ways, this group generates close to US$20 billion in annual revenues for the country.
There is an abundance of half-Filipino Philennials too who were born in many different countries from parents who work overseas. Some of them are already finding their way back to the country, seeking their roots and adding on to the global network that already exist among them.
Philennials now account for more than 30 percent of Philippine population, and much more of them are entering the productive age. Connected and possessing the brilliance this generation brings, I am mystified and wonder where Philennials will take this country in ten years. As it is, this generation is fast learning to collectively cope even with the ills of bad politics and have become highly self sufficient. The Philippines can only get better, brighter and smarter. I somehow feel more confident about the country’s future being in their hands. As mentors, we can only instill in them the right values that can help channel their skills toward positive change and a productive influence to society.