“The more young people go on social media, the more they feel isolated.”
The above is a quote taken from a research study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. To many, this has been obvious from the out-set. To some, it may seem shocking. We have been raised in a world dominated by social media and now it turns out that the thing we crave the most is affecting us negatively. The conclusion drawn from the study by Elizabeth Miller is simple; rather than making us feel connected, social media actually draws us further away from each other.
The question that stands out most, however, is this: although we have clear evidence that our social habits do more harm than good for the majority of people, why do we continue to be slaves to our social media profiles?
My generation is addicted to attention. The most powerful measures of self-worth are numbers of followers, likes and retweets. We don’t do things solely for enjoyment anymore. Everything must be either captured on snapchat to show the world, or tweeted about. We’ve forgotten how to just like things. Instead, we need everyone else to know what we’re doing. We want them to know that our lives are interesting and extraordinary.
My generation have been brought up in a world where every need and want is filled almost instantly. In a world where everything is given, we have forgotten how to appreciate anything. Everything is taken for granted. Nothing is good enough, at least not for that long. As soon as the newest version of anything comes out, what we have is no longer satisfactory. The meaning of value has no meaning. Not for us. We are trapped in an era that promotes the superficial and rejects sentimental insight.
We all portray our lives online in a false light. They are not true reflections of reality, but the parts we feel comfortable showing the world. They are not the real us, but the us that we choose to be in public. Due to the internet, and global connectivity, and this bizarre competition for likes and followers, everyone, on some level, believes that they are special, that they will be famous, that they will be an icon. The reality, however, is that some of us won’t have fulfilling jobs. Some of us won’t feel special. If there are to be ‘somebody’s’ in the world, most of us have to be ‘nobody’s’. The unspoken expectation for us millennials is to believe that we will be famous and that we will make it. Social media promises this to be true. With every like we receive, we believe that we’re one step closer to the limelight. Although for some of us this will be true, most of us will lead relatively ‘normal’ lives.
What happens one day when we wake up and realise this? Our whole self-esteem and self-worth have been built around this superficial ‘like’ system and now we understand it has no meaning. Does this true perception of the difference between the ideal and reality affect our mental health? I think so. I think that many of us can’t take the fact that our names will never be known. We can’t be nobody’s. We refuse to be.
There has been no defining event for my generation, nothing to endure, in any real sense. We’re lost. We spend our time building our online personas, and waiting for fame, instead of spending time developing our real relationships and exploring our real selves. Vanity is slowly overtaking our integrity.