I was 16 when it happened. Barely a senior in high school. Most kids didn’t have their own cell phone yet. Social media didn't yet exist. The digital languages that would help our country cope, grieve, and grow together had not yet been invented.
Millennials were supposed to be defined by January 1, 2000. But to us, that was mostly a dud. Instead, a year and a half later, we found ourselves united by a common challenge:
Learning how to inherit and lead a post-9/11 America.
The last 16 years have included their fair share of troubles and hardships, but they’ve also given us new beacons, new ways of communicating, and new tools to bring us closer together. Social media was largely invented by Millennials who came of age in a post-9/11 national environment. The old ways weren’t enough for us; we wanted to connect to everything and everyone that we could.
Some say the rise of networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram was inevitable; that these were simply the next steps in our inevitable technological evolution. But today, looking back at 2001, almost exactly half my life ago, I see bigger dots on the map, and the strings that connect them.
Patriotism wasn’t enough for Millennials. We joined our fellow Americans as they stood with solidarity in the face of terror. But we needed more—we needed nothing short of a societal breakthrough.
In 2004, Facebook came to colleges around the country. No one seemed to realize it at the time, but the advent of social media was our generation’s official response to 9/11. In a world threatened by those who would tear us apart, Millennials chose instead to build networks, communities, and limitless connections. And that building happened faster than anyone could have anticipated. Despite the institutional voices telling us not to trust certain kinds of people, we ventured outside our own comfort zones every day to discover the abundant diversity of faces, stories, values, and expressions in our world.
Now, in 2017, it’s becoming clear just how many people in America—and elsewhere—are committed to a culture of curiosity and connection. Social media hasn’t just given us memes and selfies. It’s given our world’s citizens a base level feeling of inclusivity. It’s a place where everyone belongs.
And it’s not just personal users who have quickly evolved to be more accepting of others. Brands have joined in over the years, and are now in many ways leading the charge.
Here at Thin Pig we’re lucky enough to work with businesses like Hyatt, whose #WorldOfUnderstanding campaign truly understands the importance of inclusion (watch their awesome Super Bowl commercial below). They show us the benefits we all experience when we embrace our common humanity, regardless of borders or backgrounds. They create a real sense of interdependence, a dynamic in which we all truly depend on each other in both large and small ways.
Now, thanks to social media, those values have been forged into American history, and our potential to create the peaceful future we want grows stronger every day.
Today we honor all those we lost, all those who have kept us safe, and all those who will soon join our social network.