A millennial is somebody under the age of about 35. At least, this is the term that marketers have invented to describe impressionable Young People. Some name this demographic Generation Y.
A millennial is someone born after 1980 and they outnumber every other generation. But, according to multiple studies, millennials are the most depressed generation, ever. The suicide rate, since the 1950s, has tripled among young adults. Suicide is now the second most common form of death amongst college students.
Between 2005 and 2014 the number of clinically-depressed teenagers increased by more than half a million, and three quarters of them were woman. Every year, more and more millennials are taking time off work and are seeking help for mental health issues. An even greater number report extremely low job-satisfaction and say they experience difficulty maintaining relationships.
Young people get a lot of stick, the older generation have always experienced ‘Juvenoia’ - a fear, or hostility, directed at the younger generation. This is nothing new.
Baby Boomers, born just after the war, had a strong work-ethic and believed that the amount of hours worked should be directly relational to their income. Baby Boomers heavily begrudged the generation that came after then, Generation X. They were more independent, they changed their careers more often, and believed in a fair work/life balance.
And now it has come full circle once again, both Baby Boomers, and Generation X-ers are resenting Generation Y, the millennials. Generation Ys have brand-new values, such as collaboration, work that’s actually meaningful and impactful, having fun in the work-place, and, of course, free food. Do previous generations look down on the millennials just because they are different, or is it more than that?
Even TIME magazine has poked fun at the millennial beast, calling them “Lazy, entitled, narcissists, who still live with their parents.” And, unfortunately, they could have a point. Unlike the generational divides of last century, there is a lot of research and statistics indicating that every negative label that millennials have been tarred with, may be well-deserved, even if it isn’t, strictly, through their own fault. The cold, hard, facts don’t lie. The volume of incidents of narcissist personality disorder is three times higher for people, currently in their 20s, than the average. Are we really all in love with ourselves because we have received 50 ‘likes’ on our latest ‘selfie’ ?
Millennials are the first generation that have been brought up on Reality Television, and every year, more and more fake-reality programming is shoved down our throats. Such programmes promote narcissism above all else, portraying looks and popularity as the source of ‘fame’ and happiness. In such shows, real human relationships are often shown as being cheap and disposable.
And then, or course, there is the Social Media swamp that drowns millennials in a sea of likes, shares, pins and follows. Countless studies have shown that dopamine, the pleasure chemical, is released in the brain, when they receive likes on their photos and videos. This system breeds narcissism at its very core. It appears that the more narcissistic they are, and the more likes they receive, this, sadly, makes millennials happier.
Experts also accuse millennials of being ‘entitled’. A recent study revealed that 40 per cent of millennials believed they should be promoted every two years, even if they haven’t earned it. Research shows that this entitlement to be given handouts, regardless of one’s performance, stems from an unusual place: school Sports Day. Millennials still get a prize for participating in a race, even if they have come in last. Children are always rewarded for participating. It’s the taking-part that counts. Countless studies have shown that this attitude creates a disingenuous and diluted sense of achievement and this can be damaging to future expectations of what it really takes to achieve something.
Generation X-ers, Baby Boomers, and those before, were all brought up in a deeply competitive environment. It was instilled in them from a young age that rewards had to be earned through hard work, or graft. They were not told that they were entitled to anything.
The so-called Silent Generation, who lived through the two World Wars, certainly didn’t feel entitled. They lived through the hardest period of modern history, and everything they had earned they had to cling onto with their lives, quite literally. This meant that when they brought up their children, the Baby Boomers, they instilled, within them, a strict mentality of saving every penny and an extremely hard work-ethic. They were told that nothing in life was free, or even expected. It was all up to them.
The Baby Boomers grew up and had children of their own: Generation X. And so they passed on the same hard-work ethic. But then a huge shift came in the global economy that changed everything. Generation X lived through a time of great prosperity. Industry was on the rise, and the world was dragging itself out of the pit it dug for itself during the war. This gave Gen-Xers a “can-do” attitude. And so, they taught their children, the Millennials, that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything, become anyone, and live a happy life. You are special. This has created a generation who all believe they are special, why wouldn’t they? Their parents have drilled it into their heads that they are special and unique.
Millennials are also completely fame-obsessed too. Four times as many teenagers would choose to be the assistant of a famous person, rather than the CEO of a major corporation. In a recent poll, when asked, what would they like to do for a career, 54 per cent of 16-year-olds answered: “Become a celebrity”. Far gone are the days when becoming a celebrity was just a side-effect of demonstrating a unique talent to the masses.
Millennials have been brought up with technology that does their thinking for them and this therefore makes them lazier than previous generations. And therein lies the biggest problem that’s ruining the lives of young people today. Mobile phones. Yes, I know, we have all heard it a hundred times, mobile phones are bad for you. But do you really know why? And just how damaging are they for mental health? Because the research it terrifying.
So, imagine you are out enjoying a meal with family or friends. How many times do you check your phone over the course of that meal? The average millennial checks their phone over 100 times per day, and they touch, tap or swipe on their phone over 3000 times a day. Why? Because we are all addicts. Receiving “likes” releases dopamine, and so does hundreds of other things that we do with our phones.
Taking a picture of your food, taking a selfie, writing a status-update that you have just cooked the most amazing omelette of your life. All of these acts release dopamine, even before we upload them to the internet. Dopamine is released, in advance, because our brains anticipate the multitude of likes and shares it should hopefully receive.
Within seconds, we receive feedback, and this is instant gratification, instant approval, from our peers. And it goes on and on around the clock. We receive instant gratification when we wake up, peer approval before we go to bed, and through the middle of the night.
The dopamine swirls and swirls in our brain in an ever-lasting continuum of self-fulfilment and reward. And this only serves to perpetuate our narcissism. Until it stops.
When we upload a photo of our chia seed and avocado toast, and it doesn’t receive as much attention as we’d hoped, in our minds our peers have rejected us. We are now lost, without purpose, we are now depressed. Does all this sound familiar? This cycle of masses of release of dopamine followed by periods of intense sadness? Sounds very much like an alcohol or gambling addiction doesn’t it? Millenials have become a generation of addicts.
They check their phones at dinner because they have become addicted. It is the reason they put it on the table next to the food, putting the people they should be spending quality, face-to-face time, with in second priority to the little dopamine device. It’s the reason they don’t talk to people on the bus, on the train, at school or work. They indulge wholly in their addiction because they are truly addicted and most don’t even realise it.
A survey of more than 2000 millenials showed that 93 per cent use their phones in bed, and 80 per cent use their phones on the toilet. But it isn’t their fault. Millenials are simply a product of the environment. This is the hand they have been dealt.
Millenials grew up in a time of rapid technological advancement. And, as long as mobile devices continue to generate enormous profits, then companies will continue to develop new digital mechanisms and social networks that provide instant gratification. And it keeps coming quicker and quicker, we no longer have to wait for our next fix. It’s instantaneous.
We have Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Whatsapp, any one of which can provide our next fix whenever we desire it.
The parents of the millenials did not have these distractions, they had to put time and effort into receiving the approval of their peers. They had to have meaningful conversations, and form strong, deep and long-lasting relationships, with both their friends and partners to get their dopamine fix.
At work they had to graft day after day, and when that promotion came along, my god did they deserve it. They had earned it. In contrast millenials have become immensely impatient because they are so used to instant gratification that, if they don’t get a promotion ten minutes after starting a new job, they can get bored of it, because it isn’t the sort of timeline they are used to.
Millenials say they want to make an impact at work yet they expect to do so within 6 months at a new job. And when 6 months, or a year, has gone by, and they are still the tea and coffee guy for the office, it makes them feel disenfranchised, worthless and depressed.
But it’s not their fault, they have grown up in a maelstrom of dopamine, on tap, whenever they desire it. So, naturally they expect the same instant fulfilment from their career and relationships. But they can’t just tap a button to help them achieve that, there is no virtual replacement for hard work and genuine conversations.
They can’t ‘swipe right’ to get promoted, and, I’m sorry folks it’s going to take more than commenting on your partner’s latest selfie to make them genuinely feel valued and loved. Take them on a date, for goodness sake, and don’t look at your phone for the entire time, because the moment you do they are now second priority.
Should we be worried about the future? Of a world run by the Millenials? Are the millenials really so ill-prepared to fill the boots of the previous generation in 10 to 20 year’s time? These narcissistic. self-obsessed, lazy, entitled, young adults who want success handed to them on a plate, who can’t tie down a relationship, or achieve satisfaction in the workplace, because they are too addicted to social media.
Well, I wouldn’t be so worried.
Yes, young people have their ‘issues’ but they are no different from the last generation. Generation X were also labelled as entitled and lazy, when they were young.
As a society, we need to recognise, that the World has completely changed, both technologically, and culturally, over the past 20 years. And millennials are the first adopters of this strange new lifestyle, where you can build a billion-dollar business from your bedroom, if you put your mind to it.
All the apparent faults of young people are merely symptoms of them trying to adapt to a completely strange, new way of life, that their parents didn’t have to deal with. They face new, and unique, pressures, stresses and challenges and they need to find better ways to cope with them, rather than indulging in social media.
And, for all their faults, there are actually a lot of good things to say about millenials, that are rarely brought up.
Millennials are the most tolerant generation ever. Research shows that prejudice has fallen with each new generation. And millenials are far less racist, homophobic and sexist, than their parents. The Pew Research Centre asked adults between the age of 18 to 29 what their most important priority was during their lifetime.
- 52 per cent answered “being a good parent”
- 30 per cent said “have a successful marriage”
- 21 per cent replied “helping others in need”
Now that doesn’t sound like a generation that is completely self-absorbed, does it? And their inability not to be able to settle into a 9 to 5 job may not be entirely due to reliance on social media. Maybe it is because they all want more than the monotony of working for the some heartless corporate giant.
Research shows that millenials are the most entrepreneurial generation ever.
Spurred on by young Do-it-Yourself success like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, as a generation millennials have an unstoppable appetite to achieve something big and make an impact (right after we send this hilarious snapchat). This mentality might be proving difficult for large corporations who need to employ cheap young labour that can sit in an office and push buttons for 8 hours a day.
There is no doubt that young people need to spend more time, directly, interacting with one another, and less time on social media, because all the research says that it is does bad things for mental health. But we also need to accept that the world is rapidly changing. Millennials have their faults but they are also contributing to the world in so many incredible ways. Just like the generation before them.
Change has always come, and always will. It’s inevitable. And so we need to find a way to work with it for the better, instead of pointing out the faults in others.