We need to get our eyes out of social media and into the faces of people in our homes, communities, workplaces, and campuses. Social media distorts context and amplifies negativity. Tyler Cowen is right:

“Arguably Facebook is making it too easy for us to be superficially sociable, at the expense of deeper social cultural context.”

We need to wade into context more and skip the social superficiality.

Generational Context

Through the years, much of the Millennial context was lost in social media. To score SEO clicks, too many stereotyped and neglected context altogether. Now, with Generation Z, some continue to ignore context in favor of social media presence. Some write as if Generation Z is fully in the workforce when the years don’t add up.

Let’s review the generational years:

  • Millennials: Born 1977 to 1994
  • Generation Z: Born 1995 to 2009

The specific generational years may vary based on who is setting the definition, but you get the idea of the life points. Millennials are mostly in the workplace, and Generation Z is mostly in school.

Millennial and Generation Z: Hope

A snapshot of two generations. First, Generation Z:

  • Over 86 percent of left-of-center students strongly or somewhat strongly tolerate others with different beliefs
  • 82 percent of middle-of-the-road students strongly or somewhat strongly tolerate others with different beliefs
  • About 68 percent of right-of-center students strongly or somewhat strongly tolerate others with different beliefs

The statistics come from a report by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program entitled “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2016.” Toleration is a good starting point.

Next, Millennials:

  • 53 percent believe their actions will lead to positive change
  • 57 percent remain confident or very confident in the ability of an organization they supported to solve a social issue
  • 77 percent stated that voting is the duty of every citizen

The statistics come from the “2017 Millennial Impact Report” put together by Achieve and the Case Foundation. Affecting positive change and taking responsibility deliver a solid leadership attitude.

Two other quick statistics:

  • Generation Z (incoming college freshman): Over 75 percent of students who spent at least six hours per week using social media during the past year also spent at least six hours per week socializing with friends in person
  • Millennials: Only 29 percent of Millennials believe the country is going in the right direction

Social media is not replacing in-person conversations and interactions, and discontentment may lead to further positive change as younger generations lead organizations, win elections, and serve in an expanded capacity.

Generational Actions: Get Started

Everyone plays a role. Instead of floundering in our dissatisfaction or getting sidetracked by the latest divisive tweet by a certain public official, our role is to take positive action (always). Our role is to set the example of positive interaction (as often as possible). While good leaders bring people together, great leaders activate groups and teams in problem-solving conversations and outcomes.

What should we do? Here are some suggestions to get started.

College leaders

Encourage toleration of differing opinions and positions. In the midst of the differences, set the table for intentional conversations to explore current topics and provide the tools for civil conversations and critical thinking. Large forums work, but round tables of six may work better.

High school leaders

Encourage after-school conversations on specific topics – local and national. Similar to college leaders, set the round table and let everyone know they have a voice to be heard and an ear to hear. Facilitate engaging and problem-solving conversations with students (and teachers, too).

Business leaders

Like it or not, political issues are a part of business, now more than ever. If you choose to ignore, you will have less engaged team members. If you choose to engage, you have the opportunity for a more activated culture.

Set up lunchtime or after work conversations on diversity, economics, job creation, healthcare, and more. Be bold. Engage in a deeper conversation in a company meeting.

Current topics weigh on team members. Don’t be ignorant. After all, in their homes and families, each of these topics weigh on them. The intersection of society and business is real, and it is time to activate the intersection and become a better company for it.

National political leaders

Stop doing nothing and trying to do it all without the other. Bipartisan work is hard, but it is what works. Instead of focusing on identity politics, focus on what is best for future generations. Approach this mindset with a problem-solving attitude. When you mix what is best for future generations with collaboration, discontentment declines.

Local political leaders

If half of your working groups, task forces, and commissions do not include people under 30 years old, you are missing an opportunity to collaborate with freshness and legacy. Younger generations want to be engaged in what is happening in their communities, so tap into their talent, insight, and energy. Encourage and develop future leaders.


At least two times a week, sit down for a family dinner and have a conversation. Don’t ask simple questions. Ask the challenging ones, both personal and societal ones. We need to untap what is weighing on us and do so in a supportive, understanding way.

I know it is tough to do. Adults want to skirt to tough issues, and young adults want to hold it in. We can relieve the anxiety balloon a little through heartfelt and deep conversations.

Young adults

Don’t get discouraged. Your turn is coming so prepare properly. Read deeply. Think deeply. Skip social media more often. Start a civil political or career conversation with your friends or elders. Be the example.


You have a lot on your plate in building a solution. More than a solution, you are building a company. Build it in a diverse way. Read Reset and use the tools at Project Include. Culture matters. Culture provides the foundation in which diversity thrives while risk weakens. Strength in solutions, conversations, launch, sustainability, and growth comes from a diverse culture.

Our Generational Turn

Start today. Take the steps, no matter your generation. Hope is built in conversations. Hope happens in our words and actions. Lead to ignite hope and positive change where you are.

Hope is built in conversations. Hope happens in our words and actions.


If you want to think of generations, think of us all as the Aspen Generation. Aspens thrive in diversity, connect between ages, collaborate often, and create for a continued legacy of growth.

Who else needs to undertake the challenging actions to raise our hope? Join the conversation over here > > >




Photo, all rights reserved, Jon Mertz, 2017. Photo taken in the Santa Fe National Forest.
In today's discourse, it is easy to lose hope. However, there is hope in the generations. We need to act. Engaging is not enough; we need to activate between generations.