We’ve all read or heard about the stereotypical behavior of the millennial. So what do we know? Well, we know that there is a general consensus that millennials were born sometime in the early to mid-1980’s. We know there are positive associations with being a millennial, such as being innovative, well-educated, and having a desire to make an impact. On the other hand, there is the negative stigma that they are lazy, self-centered, and entitled.
While I’m sure we’ve seen both sides of the spectrum, we still must take a step further to see where this whole persona developed from. I think it’s fair to put partial blame on the whole “everybody wins” lesson. We grew up getting plenty of things handed to us. If we lost a game or event, we still earned a ribbon or a trophy. If we didn’t get a good grade in a class, parents would complain until a teacher couldn’t deal with them anymore… I know that may read as a bit harsh and unrealistic, but I saw it growing up – it’s a real thing. To put it simply, we grew up in a different lifestyle than the generations before us. I would even go as far to say that there needs to be this cutoff amongst millennials because honestly, I believe that some of the MBA students grew up differently than the younger half of the group (you guys had MySpace, I’m not wrong here).
So where does the rest of the blame fall? I think a huge portion to blame is technology.
Millennials, for the most part, are on a train. This train rides on the tracks of what was given to us. But at one point, the train will stop and we will have to get off of the path that was built for us and explore what is beyond on our own; it’s when we enter the real world. Yes, the real world, where we no longer get the luxury of getting things handed to us and we face the occasional earth-shattering moment.
So where do we turn? Motivational speaker Simon Sinek on MTV Australia was able to make a great case that we turn to technology to make us feel better. “We’re good at putting filters on things,” Sinek states, “We’re good at showing people that life is amazing even though I’m depressed.” Sinek goes on to say that engagement with our phones and with social media in general act as a source of dopamine for our brains. Which makes sense. As human beings, we desire a source of connection with other human beings. Nowadays, “It feels good to get a text.” Perhaps it’s the same good feeling back in the olden days to have someone notice you and say hi. On this notion of interaction being a source of good feeling, my initial reaction to social media starts to make sense. In my first post, I posed the question the following question:
Are we trying to quantify our popularity through likes?
In a sense, yes. We like being accepted and we like receiving that release of dopamine, but back to my original point. Technology and its supply of dopamine can actually be harmful to the development of humans today. There will always be a way to get more likes and achieve more attention. Each post acts as a benchmark for the next. We need more dosage to get that original high. Re-read that. We need more dosage to get that original high. To me, that sounds like the quintessential high school health lesson when it comes to drugs.
“[technology] is highly, highly addictive,” Sinek adds in his talk, which brings up a good point he transitions to. There is government legislation for other sources of dopamine. Sinek’s list includes alcohol, smoking, and gambling, each of which has an age restriction. These three habits have clear, harmful characteristics we are all aware of, but we don’t seem to quite yet have a threshold on what social media does to harm millennials, specifically those not in the real world yet. In a high-stress world of trying to get accepted and approved by our peers, it makes sense that we use technology to numb our anxieties and attempt to block out the threat of the outside world. It’s temporary relief that brings a long-term problem.
The long-term problem is that our relationships start to depend on instant gratification because that’s what we get online. All the time. The issue is that real relationships require patience. Not everything is as capable as technology. A significant other cannot instantly reply to every text message. A job application does not get instantly approved. Finding career fulfiment isn’t an immediate return like online shopping. As millennials, we lack experience with understanding the beauty of patience.
But it’s clear that Facebook or Instagram are not going away anytime soon and now even kids in elementary school have as much access to technology as we do. So what do we do to address this issue?
In terms of health and education, I think it will become important for younger educational institutions to address these issues. I know there are already lessons on the implications of online bullying, but the other side of the spectrum needs to be taught as well. Instant gratification isn’t reality and online engagement can be addicting. Through health programs can society start to combat the presence of education and revert importance back onto real time relationships.
But what about the kids who might already be too deep?
At this point, it has to be a journey on their own to take a step back and evaluate everything. In my opinion, I believe it’s important to experience hardship in order to appreciate success. As soon as the individual understands what impact technology and social media has on them, the sooner an individual can address the possible problem of addiction and embrace hardship. It’s just like an intervention, the only issue is that this addiction to constantly being online and constantly looking for instant gratification seems to have a grasp on everyone. And I’ll admit, each day there are certain texts I look forward to in order to maintain important connections in my life, but I try not to let that consume my current experience.
I feel like I’m back in philosophy class freshmen year; It’s the allegory of the cave all over again. Millennials are stuck in the cave feeding off of likes and engagement to fuel their increasing need for more and more dopamine. It’s not until we step outside and realize what the world is really like and what is important to establish a genuine lifestyle. I believe that each person’s genuine lifestyle is a completely unique experience, but in order to initiate that experience, we ironically need the medium of technology to reach our millennial friends and family. And I encourage you to join that movement, just don’t be the self-loathing, good-doer who claims to have found the light for everyone else. But maybe pass along messages such as Sinek’s which sort of starts the eye-opening process to the “prisoners” in the cave that there is more to life than instant gratification online.
Here is the like to Sinek’s talk in case you were hoping to hear more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vudaAYx2IcE
Another cool message to pass along (sorry for the poor quality): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdynfVNbJ5E