Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and social media go hand in hand. They rule the digital world and at this point in time are probably the generation that is the most technologically advanced. That we can all agree on. Where there seems to be some debate is whether this tech-savvy group of young adults has become the most socially advanced or whether their online activity is better categorized as “anti-socializing.” We’re here to shine a light on the digital and mental health of Millennials. Buckle in!
92% of Millenials own a smartphone. While that statistic sinks in, here’s a fact: most of them are social media users on popular networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. 73% of Millennials in America believe that the internet is impacting society positively. That may be true. The internet has made communication faster and easier, and it’s also given us access to endless amounts of information.
The danger is in the potential of Millenials swapping out real-life activities for online pastimes. For example, connecting with friends, researching a topic, getting updated with the latest news, expressing themselves, shopping, reading… the list goes on. Disconnecting from real life interaction can eventually lead to feelings of depression, isolation, and loneliness.
Millennials grew up in a time when gaming consoles were extremely popular and internet connections were being set up all over the world. Face-to-face interactions have to an extent become superfluous for them.
While Millenials are arguably the last age group to grow up without tablets or cell phones, technology was seeping into their childhoods and grew more advanced with them.
It’s not a surprise that Millennials don’t seem to regard face-to-face interactions with the same importance as generations before theirs did. Smartphones have made it way too easy to cut out a coffee date and replace it with a phone call. This has earned them the label of the “anti-social generation.” Millennials are now beginning to lack skills in social interaction.
Technology has given this generation (and the ones to come) a rectangular device that fits in your pocket, that can basically facilitate any social encounter without actually meeting in-person. Webinars, YouTube videos, online role-playing games, and dating apps have made attending class, work, and social events essentially unnecessary. If your boss needs to chat with you, that can be done via video chat. Did you miss a lecture? Listen to it online. And why oh why would you succumb yourself to the humiliation of in-person rejection, when you can just find a date on your rectangle?
Mental health experts are concerned about the digital well-being of Millennials as they engage more and more in “passive” online connections. Because of their preference for online and digital communication, they are damaging their social skills. They have developed trouble managing their reactions and actions in real life situations. Problematic situations are the most challenging because they don’t have a digital interface between themselves and the issue.
Despite the above many people (probably Millennials) view this techy generation as the most social. This is because they are constantly socializing, even if it’s solely within virtual realms. Because of the frequent and multifaceted nature of apps and the internet those who are using it the most are constantly connecting. Most young adults are sending roughly 32 texts a day.
Whether it’s making new friends, finding jobs, setting up meetings, Millennials are doing it bigger and faster than ever possible before. It’s all online and it’s all happening at once. It’s impossibly easy to send a text or post a status or like a photo.
We can criticize the effects it’s having on their mental wellbeing (which we’re about to do), but they are ultimately the most “connected” generation the world has seen.
Spending too much time online is just bad. The same way spending too much time doing anything is bad. Even too much spinach can cause kidney stones. So let’s not be too hard on those who have taken it overboard, there are loads of ways to get your digital health in check.
Spending too much time online has been connected to a syndrome called FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Symptoms include feelings of anxiety, social inadequacies, insecurities, and a host of other negative thoughts and emotions. These feelings can, of course, lead to more serious mental health issues like depression. This means taking the time to sign of is vital. Balance is important, making sure your spending equal parts experiencing real life as you are checking in on your virtual one is key.
Humans are naturally social creatures. Technology has definitely provided wonderful tools we can use to our advantage. We need to make sure to make time for activities without it. Instead of relying on technology for your dose of socialization, use it to facilitate the organization of social events and real-life interactions. Think of tech as a walking stick and real life as your legs. It’s there to make it easier, not to make it happen.