Millennials Don't Trust Jay-Z, Or Anyone Else, Apparently. But Why?

Most Millennials just don't trust you. That's according to the most recent survey from Pew Research, titled "Millennials in Adulthood," which shows that a mere 19 percent of people age 18-33 believe others can be trusted. By comparison, 31 percent of Gen-Xers and 40 percent of Baby Boomers think people are mostly trustworthy. Which begs the question: why are Millennials so wary of other people?

Well, here's a brief list of possible explanations, just off the top of my head: the recession and an uncertain job market; a stalled Congress and a president we're disappointed in; financial and religious institutions that have failed us; a news industry that many view as biased or incompetentstudent loan debt; and the reneged promise of a carefree '90s childhood full of coddling and unrealistic aspirations. 

There is probably no easy answer to Pew's question: "Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can't be too careful in dealing with people?"

It's important to note, says Simon, that Millennials' brains are still developing well into their late 20s. He doesn't think that Millennials simply suffer from low self-esteem or are unable to take care of themselves because of coddling "helicopter parents." Simply put, Millennials are still growing — only that growth is done as a show of sorts, open for the world to see.

Still, the results are also surprising at a time when Millennials seem so open to everything else. As Derek Thompson at the Atlantic puts it:

This just barely makes any sense. Here is a generation that trusts peers enough to meet random strangers in bars on Tinder, ride in cars with strangers on Uber X and Lyft, visit strangers' apartments through Craigslist, sleep on their beds through Airbnb, and we're also the least likely to say 'most people can be trusted'? Put your theories in the comment section; I don't know what to believe anymore.

It may be that Millennials are simply untrustworthy about the the semantics of trust itself, says Michael Y. Simon, a psychotherapist based in Oakland, Calif., and author of the book The Approximate Parent: Discovering the Strategies That Work with Your Teenager. After the Pew study was released, Simon says he sent out emails to Millennials asking them the same question about trust. They were overwhelmingly wary to answer such a "blanket statement."

"Since we're in an era of Truthiness, rather than Truth, it makes sense to respond by problematizing the question and refusing (or avoiding) an answer ... especially since 'Answers' can be constricting, oppressive, and oh-so-binary," Simon tells Bustle. 

And we learned all about those problematic binaries in college. 

Still, our mistrust extends beyond the questioning a simplistic survey question. Millennials also don't really trust Obama or the Affordable Care Act, with younger Millennials less likely to support the president, according to the Harvard University Institute of Politics. Most oppose the government's collection of personal information, because, uh, did you read the news last summer? We don't even trust Jay-Z anymore because of his big-bucks partnerships. 

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So what do Millennials trust? Social media, apparently. 

Perhaps that's because Millennials had to forge their own media paths, because no one showed them a "proper" way to use technology. We discovered and tailored it for ourselves — and we were the ones teaching our elders about it. 

"Media literacy is the most important kind of education you could possibly give your child if they live in the United States in the 21st century," Simon says. "Who did media education with Millennials, in real time, so that teens could develop a sense of trust in themselves and each other? The answer is it didn't happen. At least, not very much." 

Meanwhile, we seem to trust more if we're in (perceived) control. Young adults are the center of their own stories on Twitter and other social media accounts, with huge audiences extracting bits of information to share. Numerous studies have shown that Millennials are much more likely to trust complete strangers on the Internet than they are big brands. (However, they are hesitant to give up information unless they get something in return — like a $10 gift card.)

"The fact that firms, corporations, and even religions are using social media to help restore trust (see: Pope Francis on Twitter) means that they recognize the need to recover millennial goodwill, and may move towards a more open dialogue in attempting to achieve it," psychologist Peggy Drexler writes in Time

Millennials have realized that they are going to work harder — or smarter — to fit into what it means to be successful or to reach the American Dream. Surprisingly, despite all of the depressing economic and political statistics, Millennials are still very optimistic about the future, according to the same Pew survey. Almost 50 percent are confident that America's best years are still ahead. 

It's important to note, says Simon, that Millennials' brains are still developing well into their late 20s. He doesn't think that Millennials simply suffer from low self-esteem or are unable to take care of themselves because of coddling "helicopter parents." Simply put, Millennials are still growing — only that growth is done as a show of sorts, open for the world to see.

"Millennials are operating in a theatre of operations — and I use the word purposely — where they are on-stage (and online), and the norms, standards, goals, strategies and methods for identity development and play are not solidified," Simon says. 

"The anxiety caused by that, maybe combined with a lack of practice [with this kind of] digital mediation naturally leads to distrust — as well it should."



Photo via Flickr: Adam Haranghy

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