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Millennial. A term that like sustainability or innovation that is overused and under grasped. Every agency, marketing team or design firm seems to want to know what millennials want. How do we think? What drives us? What encourages us to purchase things and how do we make these kinds of decisions? Unfortunately, these are not the questions that should be asked. If one were to back up, and fully understand how a millennial was raised, what kinds of experiences we had in the world as we know it, they would gain a much higher insight into what makes us tick. The most absurd piece to all of this: most of my fellow millennials have never been told this information either.
A hot topic I’ve been speaking to my fellow-aged-peers about is millennial burnout. This is a very common feeling. You work your ass off for a piece of paper qualifying you to be an “adult” in whatever perspective field that you chose to study. You get a job post-graduation and everyone around you is so proud. You work that job for seven months or so and you start to have a deep gut emotion that this work field is not for you. You are not making the kinds of impact you thought you would be by this point and you ultimately feel a sense of being burnt out within the first kick-off of your career. You are not alone in this and there are very specific scientific data that backs up why so many of us go down this path.
There are four reasons for this, that most of us are unaware of:
First, our childhood ultimately set us up to fall flat on our hopeful faces. Not kidding. Our parents were raised in a generation that was more hands-off. Meaning, they worked really hard and sometimes got recognized for it, but most of the time—they were ignored. To combat this, parents adopted the, “I want my kid to have everything I didn’t” parenting model. They overcompensated by inventing programs in schools that rewarded children for showing up. First place in a race? Congratulations, you get a ribbon! Last place in the same race? Yay! You participated, you get a ribbon! This kind of reward enables every single one of us to feel like a winner, right? Wrong. This kind of adult reaction detracts from students who worked hard to earn first place and enables those who didn’t try at all with immediate gratification. Overall, this means that millennials have been raised to have a lower self-esteem than the previous generations before us. First place has received the same treatment as last place, removing the incentive. Science shows, we were literally were raised having less confidence in the work we put forward. To overcome this, we have tuned to a new beast all together: technology.
Parallel in our need for immediate gratification we have been exposed to the biggest enabler of all: technology. It assists us in wearing the mask that says, “Life is amazing!” even though our generation has the highest rate of depression and suicide in the past decade. We have adapted the “fake it till you make it” motto and applied it to everything in life. The leader: social media.
Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram provide a space for us to receive the instant approval we crave from our childhood. Post something and your phone automatically starts to ding and buzz with likes, comments, and hearts. Immediate love, an automatic release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine, by definition, is not addictive, but our generation is strung out on it. We are able to paint a picture of who we want the world to think we are, even if it’s all a fake mask. We constantly check social media for the little red circle notification saying we are needed. We are important. This emotion IS addictive. It is in the human psyche to want to be loved and needed. So how does this effect our social interactions?
When we are young, the only social approval we seek is from our parents. Slowly we transition to the approval of our peers. Living in a digitally infiltrated world, seemingly ruled by phones, our need to seek approval from physically live and breathing friends we can touch, see and feel is slowly being replaced with the need for likes, comments, and chats online. It is not impossible, but science shows that this is why millennials have such a tough time knowing how to form deep, lasting relationships. 89 percent of us openly admit that digital friends are not the ones they rely on at the end of the day. Devices offer temporarily relief, but science is showing the damage it does turning to a device, over a real person.
To the social media influencer reading that thinks this is all crap: please understand my point is that there is nothing wrong with social media or cell phones. Our biggest problem is inbalancement.
We are constantly sending subconscious messages to people weather we know it or not. For example: having your phone out at the dinner table during a one on one meal says to the person you’re with, “you’re important, but you’re not THAT important.” Addiction stems from the emotions we get if we don’t have our phones. What is the first thing you do in the morning when you wake up? Do you check your phone first above anything else? We all know and can identify the unhealthy relationship we have with our devices. After all, we are the instant gratification generation. Want something from Amazon? It can be at your house tomorrow. TV such as Netflix has no commercials so we can consume more, binge watch series. Even dating has become a digitally fixed organization. Don’t like your significant other? Swipe and find a new one. This works in almost every aspect of our lives with the exception of two areas:
- Job satisfaction
- Real relationships
We often feel frustrated in the workplace because college and our childhood has taught us that we can change the world. That somehow going to college and then landing a job somehow means that we will fix everything. Until we work that job for a few months and realize that any kind of change that is worth having takes the one thing we hate to give it: time. Jobs that are fulfilling take time, and millennials everywhere are having an abrupt and rude awakening.
A top of this already concerning problem is environment. America shoves students who were encouraged to have an open and flexible college experience into corporate cubical and stack them tall as sky scrapers. Looking past environment, millennials do things differently—and corporate America is still very much on an 8-5 schedule. This also adds flames to the fire that is millennial burn out.
So how do we start to combat this?
Set limits of how much time you can spend on your phone in a day to start. Consider the friendships in your life, prioritize quality time with the people you really enjoy and want to invest in. Cut back time with individuals that make you feel anything less than you are. Note: you can do this in a kind way—don’t be rude to others, it only will drain your energy in the long run. Practice patience. Find a hobby that forces you to have it. This will help when times at work seem slow, or that you are not making a change you wish to see fast enough. Mostly, remember that the world is around you. All the tools and technologies we have are amazing, when used in moderation.