Millennials are considered people who reach adulthood after the year 2000, the first generation to do so. These are people who are typically born in the late ’80s and ’90s, and according to an article by the Associated Press, they may not be all too trusting.

This may be due to several factors, including political gridlock and economic uncertainty, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and

Professor of Sociology Stephen Light said.

Light defines trust as “A belief that others can be counted on.” This has to do with people one would know, people in one’s own group and people who may be further away. Light said that Millennials are the first Internet generation. Generation X, in comparison, tends to use old technology to ferret out information.

Light said people these days are constantly bombarded with negative media.  For example, violent videos went viral of the deaths of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, American journalists who were beheaded by the Islamic fundamentalist group ISIS.

“Millennials are exposed to more disturbing information,” Light said. “They’re exposed to it around the clock.”

The baby-boomer generation saw the birth of CNN. In that time, 24-hour news was a “radically new concept, because it was news during the rest of the day.  We didn’t need to wait for the 7 o’clock news. We didn’t need to wait for the paper to be printed and come out in the morning.”

Light said, “Information was not as in-our-face. All types of information, both good news and bad news, were more difficult to access.”

Michael Blair, a Plattsburgh State history major, said that perhaps the Millennial generation is less trusting than the baby-boomer generation, but more trusting than Generation X, due to factors like the Vietnam War.

“With the current state of politics in the country, you don’t have a lot of trust in government figures. You haven’t had a lot of that in a while,” Blair said. “And that has colored the (Millennial) generation’s view on authority.”

Blair said the state of the economy and attempts to control the media that we consume (controversies over video games, Internet, etc.) result in a large amount of mistrust in authority.

In light of this mistrust, Blair said this is not a problem that would require intervention. “I don’t think it’s as big of a problem as it has been in previous generations. We’re not rioting on college campuses. I don’t know if I’d say (things are) improving, but they’re not getting any worse.”

“It’s harmful for politics in general, because it means that it’s pushing a lot of young people away from politics, but in terms of society, I think it’s had a lot worse things happen to it. I think it’s pushing young people away from voting.”

Blair mentioned the young people who don’t trust either candidate, will not vote in presidential elections.

Ambar Jimenez, a PSUC biology major, said the reason for the level of mistrust lies in people’s involvement with technology of the modern age.

“Technology has opened people to so many ideas that they change their views so (easily) because they don’t have a fundamental concentration, or idea in their lives.”

Jimenez said, in regard to mistrust in government,  “Politicians have fixed ideas, because they belong to certain groups, and their views don’t change over time very easily. If the economy is good, people don’t see politicians’ bad qualities, but if the economy is bad, they blame them.”

He said trust in government and each other is necessary. “You should be able to trust not only your government, but also your local and national communities. We are citizens, and citizens are supposed to be united in some way, and they have to trust them to a certain degree. But because they don’t trust each other, there are separations within society.”

Jimenez also believes this mindset can lead to a degradation of society. Light, however, disagrees, saying that societies always change, and that it is the “natural order of things.”

Jimenez, 20, has a message for the Millennial generation.

“I think people should stop focusing so much on their personal issue and focus on the general. When you stop being selfish, you not only improve yourself, but you improve what is around you. We are one people, and if we look at ourselves as one people, then there wouldn’t be that much conflict with each other or with ourselves.”

Light said the Millennials are doing a good job, and at this point, they have a lot to teach the baby boomer generation.

With regard to trust, Light said people are essentially the same, but trust levels vary with time and place. Someone who was alive during D-Day may have a different trust level than someone who has never known the toil of war.

Blair said that a certain level of distrust can be necessary.
“A little bit of distrust in authority is fine, because that’s… exactly the sentiment this country was founded on,” Blair said. “If you don’t hold the people in power accountable, then they will do whatever they want.”

Email Tim Lyman at timothy.lyman@cardinalpointsonline.com.

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