Why Millennials Voted Remain in the EU Referendum

28/06/2016 15:46 | Updated 28 June 2016

I was born one year and one month before the Berlin wall was officially declared open and I am a millennial. We grew up in a globalising world with borders and barriers coming down. We grew up experimenting with ever more reaching interconnectivity. The rise of mobile phones and the internet opened our Windows (95) to a big wide world. Advancements in colour film gave us detailed glimpses of life in places we knew we would never visit. From documentaries to dramas and films from other languages and cultures. The technological waves of VHS, CD, DVD, HD and instant video streaming dominated our childhoods. Each gave us many thousands of vivid storytelling images and speech to explore as our brains developed. We grew up in so many more different environments than had ever been experienced before, even though it could be said we experience these passively. Still, everywhere we looked were the lives of people completely different from our own and the people we saw everyday.

If you learnt to read as a kid, you can generally read much faster than you can listen. Articles about millennials often point out that we grew up texting, instant messaging and chatting online. Short, private conversation taken place over long periods of time with access to Wikipedia and the rest of the internet. Information in debate could be quickly verified (searched for) or evidenced (via a share). Spelling can be checked with a right-click. Memes are funny because everyone recognises the feeling associated with the common phrase and punch line. Many of us experience the thoughts and feelings in memes and, by extension, we know most others have, too. Some of us have known this from a very young age and those who grew up when the internet was already established, have always known. Knowing that everyone thinks and feels largely the same helps you feel connected to strangers.

All this exploration and interconnectivity has lead us to become increasingly aware of how little influence we have in this vast universe. After all, we are but flashes of life on a spec of dust floating around in expanding space-time. It is why draw strength from unity. It is why, as members of the European Union, free to live and work in 27 diverse and imperfect nations, we are the envy of youth around the world. It is why 75% of young voters wish to hold on dearly to that freedom. It is why a vote to leave is an infringement on the freedom that was fought so bitterly to attain.


There is a positive side of knowing that not matter what, your life is meaningless in the course of the universe. Yes, even if you are considered incredibly influential like Martin Luther King or Socrates. If you think of how you would respond to the classic question, if you knew you had a year, a week or 24 hours left to live - how would you spend them? Knowing how old the universe is brings death closer by shrinking the context of our life. Early exposure to knowing how others live their lives differently from our own leads us to want to discover how best to live. We also know that we will live longer - so even though life feels short relative to the universe, we can extend our formative years because we will be working longer any way. Why not wait until we're older to settle? Again, in the European Union, we had more opportunity to find that way to live that best suits us as individuals with different tastes.

Career changing has become increasingly part of our global economy. We grew up exploring and flicking between webpages and MSN conversations. Since an early age we have been exploring multiple subjects and themes simultaneously on our computers and smartphones. We've seen the collapse of industry and a Great Recession and we think the way to survive is to be adaptable, to have varied experience. It appeals to our exploitative nature. We are excellent networkers and give willingly to our networks, knowing that you never know when you may need something back. Think of it like this: if no one shared anything online, if no one spent time answering questions in forums, posted blogs or interesting articles, created memes, shared pictures, made silly comedy rap videos online - then the internet would be a very dull and very boring place. Will post-Brexit Britain become duller, slower and reminiscent of dial-up? That is our fear now. It's like the older generations have said,

"Remember the days of dial-up when everyone had a homepage? Things were simpler then, better, more controlled and organised. After all, it was us that invented the internet. Let's go back to that!"

Our generation has heard this and hung our heads in disbelief.

The fact that we grew up with these technologies and virtual environment matters. The fact that we were let loose in this interconnected world when we were children is crucial. Your generations may have invented texting, but we developed it. Let me explain through an example using language. In the 1970s a school for deaf adolescents opened in Nicaragua. In it, children who had never learnt to speak any language were brought together for the first time. The first wave of children develop a pidgin sign language in the playground. The school grew quite rapidly and as newer and younger children filtered through, a new language was formed complete with grammatical rules. The first generation shared tools for a language, the second generation became fluent in them. We wired our brains to maximise the utility of an interconnected, global environment. Children are the greatest learners. Hopefully we will learn from our own history - the generations coming behind us will be more connected, more global and different in ways we can only imagine. However, it is clear to say that a lot of us feel let down by Thursday's decision.