Are We Really A Heartless Generation?

Apr 27, 2020   |   Eunice Tan

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When generations Z or Y are mentioned, stereotypes about them immediately come to mind. In a survey conducted across youths aged 19 to 35, ‘lazy’, ‘rude’ and ‘selfish’ were the three most common stereotypes that youths feel are placed on them. They are commonly known as the “strawberry generation” – referring to the population’s inability to work hard or withstand high pressure, from family, work or studies.

But how did these stereotypes come into place? Could the assumption about said population be a sweeping one? Or does it prove to be true?

Yin Jie, Jian Guo and Meredith are three youths who share their thoughts on the topic and what it means to care for the issues that matter to them.

Yin Jie, pictured 2nd from the right, with his fellow Heartware Support Our Pioneers Programme volunteers from the Pasir Ris site.

Koh Yin Jie, 20, Full time NSF

Yin Jie volunteers in the Heartware Support Our Pioneers (HWSOP) programme. Despite serving National Service Full Time where he stays in camp during the weekdays, he spends hours every weekend giving back to the community.

It’s his third year with Heartware but he has been volunteering since his school days, frequently working with the elderly. The values he learns from them, along with their entertaining life stories, are part of what makes his volunteering experience so meaningful.

“I feel content when I know that I am making a difference in someone’s life, no matter how small.”

His thoughts on our generation being a heartless one? “We are definitely not void of heart,” he says. “I believe there’s still room for improvement and I hope we youths can make a name for ourselves as the generation that cares, especially in the current demographic situation of our ageing population.”

“Being seemingly always glued to our screens, [it] gives off the impression of being cold and indifferent to the world around us. But I don’t believe that this is an accurate assumption as it is not that we are avoiding interaction but more of us shifting focus towards interacting via social media,” he added. Social media has paved the way for forging large online communities that aim to improve social issues, allowing people to speak out for issues close to their hearts. Hashtags across platforms, Facebook communities and Instagram posts are just some of the ways people unite.

Jian Guo, bottom row, with his fellow Volunteer Tutors during the Heartware Tuition Programme Closure Party.

Feng Jian Guo, 17, Junior College Student

With two years volunteering for the Heartware Tuition Programme and counting, Jian Guo teaches primary school children because he recognises that it is a privilege to be able to afford tuition.

“It’s quite unfair. Some kids may have a head start with all the tuition they’re getting. I genuinely want to help these less privileged kids [who cannot afford tuition] and make sure they can get through their primary school years smoothly and [find] successful people.”

Teaching classes after school, he reaches home at 10pm every Tuesday but he will “never think it’s not worth it”. The sense of fulfilment he feels when his students start to understand and grow a liking towards learning is one of the reasons why he likes doing what he does.

He found out about the Heartware Tuition Programme through school and when his peers found out, they were surprised that they were not aware of it because it is something they were interested in as well. “If everybody knew, I’m sure there would be a lot more volunteers,” he says.

He recalls an incident that definitely debunks the stereotype that youths are a heartless generation. His school had a student who contracted the Covid-19 virus and their school was suspended for a day. Students from another school who had an infected teacher sent his school handwritten notes with wishes for their wellbeing.

“[It was] two different schools supporting each other, [saying] we don’t have to feel bad or alone because we are going through the same thing.”

He believes that when kind acts are done, they are more easily forgotten than acts that are unkind. Thus, it leaves a deeper image in people’s minds and contributes to the stereotype. “There are obviously youths who are unkind, who may have done a lot of things that maybe left an image that our generation is quite screwed up,” he says.

“But if you look deep, we can actually see that our generation is not one that is selfish, one that does not one to give back to society… it is definitely not fair to say that people from my generation are unkind.”

Meredith, far right, planning activities for volunteers as part of Field Leaders Volunteer Training.

Meredith Cheong, 24, Accountant

Meredith volunteers for Heartware’s Field Leaders Programme. Her motivation for volunteering stems from the belief that “it’s always about giving to others”. She was raised in an environment where she would volunteer with her family as a child, inculcated with the attitude: “You know you are able to give, so why don’t you?”

When her peers hear that she volunteers, they wonder how she finds the time.

“I think it’s about making the time. All of us have different priorities, I think it depends on what you choose to spend your time on.”

“It’s unjust to say that our generation is a heartless one,” she says. “All of us are generally good people. Probably what [naysayers] see is that we care about ourselves, maybe more often than the people around us. When you remove the initial stereotype, there’s a lot more youths who care in their own subtle ways.”

With the rise of the countless social issues that have gained prominence over the past decade, such as environmentalism and social equality, the passion and involvement in issues that matter to this generation has never shined so brightly.

In the same survey mentioned earlier, 90% of youths feel that their generation has a good heart. Some actions that demonstrate their kindness are helping the elderly in carrying heavy groceries, helping a classmate with homework or even posting about social issues that are important to them on social media.

When asked what values they prioritise in their lives, ‘Love’ was chosen by more than half of respondents, followed by 42% of them choosing ‘Compassion’. Does the stereotype of being a heartless generation accurately reflect on the values they hold?

Survey conducted across youths aged 19 to 35, done by Media Volunteer Eunice Tan.

Generalisations are easy to make, especially when there is a lack of understanding, possibly due to generational differences. Perhaps there are a few heartless youths out there, but like Yin Jie with his elderly friends in HWSOP, when time is taken to understand the majority’s stories and their motivations, bridges can be built between the different generations. This way, more love and kindness goes around.

“Because that’s what kindness is. It’s not doing something for someone else because they can’t, but because you can.” Andrew Iskander