Generations expert Amy Lynch likes to hang out in public places (like the polls) and observe generational behaviors. Not in a stalker way, in a researcher way.
My friend Mary Katherine Morn posted this photo and its caption on her Facebook page recently. An activist, visionary, minister and passionate Baby Boomer, she takes obvious pleasure and satisfaction in voting. She believes it makes a difference. I admire Mary Katherine immensely--her work, her zeal and her passion to speak truth to power. Yet I struggle to share her idealism when it comes to voting. That's the Baby Boomer in her. And the Baby Boomer in me.
Do you vote?
Do you think it matters?
Do you wear that "I Voted" sticker afterward?
Your answers may depend on your generation.
Boomers tend to believe that if you want to make a difference, you vote.
Booms put those stickers on, wear them back to the office and then to the grocery store where they (full disclosure, "we") strike up conversations with cashiers and urge them to vote.
Sticker Subtext: “That’s right, I voted. I stood up and was counted, did the right thing and made a difference. By the way, did we ever teach the world to sing?"
Generation Xers may or may not pick up the stickers. If they do, Xers take the sticker off on the way back to work. Of course Xers hope thier vote matters. But big systems have disappointed Xers often.
Sticker Subtext: “OK, so I voted. I cared enough to vote. I believed enough to vote, but no need to advertise it."
Millennials put the stickers on, then pull them off, then put them back on later, maybe. Or not. Millennial indifference to that paper announcement of civic participation betrays their ambivalence about government. They want it to work and to do more, but they haven't seen very much of that in their lifetimes.
Millennials generally sit out elections, but they reveal a cautious idealism when they do vote. When they have a candidate who seems pragmatic and who supports programs that take care of people, they vote. In that case, maybe the sticker stays on.
Subtext: “I voted. Now let's watch and see what happens."
Gen Z tries not to offend at work. That little sticker might start an uncomfortable discussion. Probably they take it off before going out in public. Having grown up in a fractious political time, most Gen Zs consider politics personal. So far, they have voted to protect individual choices, liberties and privacy.
Subtext: "You can wear your sticker if you want to, and I have the right to wear mine, too. But that doesn’t mean I want to talk about it.”
Continue the conversation BELOW. Do you wear that sticker? What does it mean if you do? and don't forget to note the generation you call home.