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As the first generation to grow up with social media, the Millennial Generation has always been viewed as a “test case” of how social media would change our perceptions of work, play and relationships. And, as British-American author Simon Sinek recently described in a viral video called “The Millennial Question” – it turns out that social media has been responsible for many people in this generation feeling adrift at both work and in their relationships.
What’s causing this feeling of alienation?
With social media, we are able to put filters on our lives, so that everything looks “amazing.” Our friends seem to have the most amazing vacations, the most amazing meals, and the most amazing relationships. In contrast, our own lives appear rather drab and unfulfilling. In fact, if you spend too much time on Facebook, you might actually start to suffer from depression and a feeling of inadequacy. As a result, members of the millennial generation often have lower self-esteem than those of older generations.
And there’s another aspect of social media that makes it so challenging for many people, and that’s the ability to get instant affirmation or gratification about your own life. Feeling a bit blue today? Just post a photo of yourself in a great outfit, and watch the “likes” roll in! Not sure what to do tonight or where to go? Just send out a few brief text messages and watch the replies come in. Technology has made us expect that everything will be available instantly and on-demand. And if we miss anything, it will be possible to “binge” and instantly get caught up.
Social media addiction
That type of thinking is actually dangerous, says Sinek, if it’s carried to an extreme. That’s because each reply, each “like” or each “follow” actually releases a shot of the feel good brain chemical known as dopamine. You’re getting a quick dopamine hit every time you get a like, which is why you’re constantly refreshing your browser to see if another “like” might have been posted. You’re literally addicted to social media.
In short, social media addiction is changing your life in ways that make it harder to live “in the moment.” It means people are checking their phones first thing in the morning before they talk to their loved ones. It means people are carrying phones with them to restaurants and texting with someone else, even when their friend is right next to them. They are so concerned about posting the right photo of their meal that they stop focusing on the real point of going to the restaurant: having a grown-up conversation and building a relationship.
A better balance between life and technology
What’s needed, says Sinek, is a reappraisal of the role that social media plays in our lives. There has to be a certain rebalancing of priorities, and a re-thinking of the “social” aspects of social media. At the very least, he says, it means you should stop charging your phone next to your bed so that you don’t wake up in the middle of the night to check how many “likes” you have. You’ll have more time for human interaction, and will take a longer-term look at your life. Finding fulfillment at work and in love is not about instant gratification – it’s long, complex and often messy.