As I drove by the park near my home this weekend, I saw a familiar sight: a large blue “1” balloon. Friends had gathered to celebrate a baby’s first birthday. At first, this seemed so normal. But then, I was surprised at how many large groups of 20- and 30-somethings I saw in the park — because thanks to the coronavirus crisis, times are now anything but normal.
Millennials, commonly defined as those born between 1980 and 2000, have taken a lot of heat over the years for being “snowflakes,” wanting “safe spaces,” and generally living lives with less hardship, but more complaints, than previous generations.
The coronavirus provides a moment for millennials to do something difficult in the short-term that will likely have a big upside for society: Stay home.
As an age cohort, millennials, or those approximately between 20 and 40, aren’t a vulnerable population for the coronavirus, so they aren’t likely nearly as personally motivated as senior citizens to stay in. They may feel they have less at stake.
But even if young people are asymptomatic and face relatively little risk of death from the coronavirus, they can still catch and spread the virus unknowingly to strangers, grandparents, and anyone in between. Millennials might feel great and be bored — and so be tempted to still go on spring break in Florida (as we’ve seen in photos) or host gatherings in parks or bars. But they shouldn’t.
This generation needs to put others’ needs above their own desires. They aren’t being asked to go to war, but it’s time they make a sacrifice of convenience and entertainment for the good of their neighbors and, yes, even their country.
The White House recognizes this. On Monday, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said:
I want to speak particularly to our largest generation now: our millennials. I have — I’m the mom of two wonderful millennial young women who are bright and hardworking, and I will tell you what I told to them: They are the core group that will stop this virus. They’re the group that communicates successfully, independent of picking up a phone. They intuitively know how to contact each other without being in large social gatherings.
And former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley tweeted:
To my younger supporters, I know you are bored and I know this virus doesn’t threaten you like it does the elderly. If you will stay in and avoid restaurants/bars for the next two weeks, this will come to an end sooner. It is your patriotic duty to stay home. We need you.
Millennials can do this. If not for love of others or country, then they might think of the economic consequences the coronavirus has caused. The stock market dropped, and many people have already lost jobs. Or the uncertainty of the long-run health impact the coronavirus will have. The coronavirus is something to take seriously.
Now is the time for millennials to pick up their phones, iPads, and various other devices to connect with friends and occupy themselves inside. For once, they actually should stay in their “safe spaces” and enjoy some (homemade) avocado toast.