According to USA Today, TIME, and a plethora of other news sources, Generation Y (to which I belong) is all about community service. We believe in doing food drives, donating blood, reading to children, participating in street cleanups, raising money for charities, and just about anything else you care to think of. We prefer working for companies that actively engage in community service, TIME says. Even more, a survey included in USA Today states that, "61% of 13 to 25-year-olds feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world."
It has also been suggested that Generation Y naturally tends toward community service — it supposedly correlates perfectly with our learned tendency toward working as a team, developed through years of sports, group projects at school, and socializing. Working for the good of society comes as naturally to us as multi-tasking (which, incidentally, isn't nearly as effective as everyone thinks).
Sounds great, right? Generation Y is here to save the day, so just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Well, this wave of community service that we’re currently riding is just as much a bubble as the housing market was, and the Internet before it. It won’t be too much longer before it pops.
First, I would submit that the above information, while encouraging, is distorted by a few factors. To start, community service has basically been required of us thus far. In my high school, there were countless service organizations, and students were practically expected to join one. There was Key Club, which performed standard community service; PAL (Peer Assistance & Leadership, if you were wondering), which helps at elementary schools; Friends, which assists with special education; the National Honor Society, which mandates community service for its members; Winner's Circle, which is anti-drug... the list goes on. I remember participating in (and dutifully recording) my community service not so much because I wanted to, but so that I could have a big, fat number to slap onto my resume for college applications. Were it not for subtle pressure from my parents, I doubt I would have accomplished even half of what I did in those four years.
One might wonder what the problem is with service that is the result of outside influence. Service is service, right? Well, here’s the rub: if we do community service out of a perceived obligation rather than desire, the number of us that still volunteer and serve will diminish as we get older. It’s so much easier to just sit and home and watch TV when (insert childhood authority figure) isn’t there guilt-tripping you into helping out.