The answer to why high numbers of Millennials don’t trust other people lies in understanding the nature of trust itself and the social context in which Millennials find themselves.
To trust someone, you need to share common bonds of affection, values, and even speech. You need to understand one another. And while you might not be equal in kind, you need to be equal in purpose and values. This doesn’t mean you can only trust people who are exactly like you, but it means you can only build trust when you have a common bond of knowledge with another and a sense of shared goals. While we might not distrust someone we don’t know, we certainly don’t trust them, either. At best, we’re ambivalent. Ambivalence is not a civic virtue. Trust is.
People who say the economy is creating a sense of distrust among Millennials—because it fosters inequality—touch on something true, but they’re missing the bigger picture. The point of distrust is not economic, because anyone can attest through common sense that a rich person and a poor person can trust each other. The point of distrust is the nature of human relations as people are affected by globalization and technology.
Trust is built when you know someone, when you have mutual understanding, a kind of civic love, if you will, that undergirds all other aspects of life. The economic dimension comes into play regarding trust only after there are no common bonds holding people together. All people see are the differences, and equality becomes the driving force in society—not liberty and civic cooperation.
—D. C. McAllister, What’s Behind Millennials’ Trust Issues?