Let’s take a look at millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 1994 who are currently aged between 28 and 40, specifically, and how they are doing in their lives compared to Generation X.
As a Gen X who is a parent of a millennial, I demonstrated a way of living that included working all hours and striving for the biggest salary possible to achieve with my abilities.
I was also part of the huge rise in people taking anti-depressants. Sadly, Gen Yers are also prone to depression which has dramatically increased in recent years. Mood enhancers are preferred over alcohol, and very popular with this generation This, I believe, could actually be better for millennials than alcohol was/is for my generation.
Social media comparison to unreliable reference points
When millennials spend hours on social media and binge-watching Netflix, their ability to see their lives through a reality lens is warped.
Gen Xers tend to compare themselves with the people they hang out or work with. But there’s a darker side for Generation Y, due in the main to the rise in their social media use.
Opportunities abound online, Snapchat, Insta, Pinterest, YouTube and Facebook. Millennials are drawn to celebrity, their points of reference are the singer/songwriters, actors portraying lives of opulence and millionaires, YouTube and Tiktok stars.
Who do millennials consider as their reference points?
Their peers? How well off their friends from school, college or university are? How about their social circle now?
Studies show that millennials have an unhealthy interest in people outside of their social circle both in the lower and higher echelons. Perhaps feeling better off than someone they know who works as a cater waiter or maybe they’re longing to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.
Let’s take a look at TV shows, more so American productions than British. The BBC dramas I watch are rather more down to earth than the likes of the rich lifestyles portrayed in Power, Big Little Lies, Billions, and movies such as Wizard of Lies to name a few.
When millennials binge on Power, they are likely seeing themselves as lacking in the muscles and dollars departments. It’s unlikely, however, they are inspired to go to the gym and build those muscles and apply for the highest paying jobs. But maybe selling drugs in a night club is a possibility. We really don't want to encourage this way of thinking!
Most likely their reality is distorted
To start with, why are they comparing themselves to an actor who has probably worked out for years to develop his stunning physique. Second, are they qualified for the high paying jobs? Would drug dealer look good on their CVs? Imagine the stress!
According to O’Guinn and Schrum (1997), the measuring sticks or reference points of millennials are the out of reach idols, which cause them to see themselves as superior to those worse off than them. But reality interferes and they suffer mental health and behavioural issues.
If someone watches too much TV or spends too long on social media, their sense of reality shifts because they have inappropriate points of reference.
Basically, fixating on images that are impossible to live up to, and the longer they spend on Facebook comparing themselves, the greater the damage to their self-esteem.
Their minds are playing tricks on them. Comparing themselves to others is going to make them unhappy. When getting zero satisfaction from something, it’s time to discover a new pastime.
“Like if tomorrow everyone in your generation, if all college students just got off Facebook, it would go away. I mean, I know it’s mostly parents on there now, anyway. But the point is like if we stop using these social media sites, a lot of you who did that, the data suggests we would be less depressed. You would increase more positive mood symptoms and they would not exist.” ~ Laurie Santos
If millennials stopped comparing what they have and want with what others have, they would be happier
Gen Yers could stop feeling so miserable. Stop comparing their appearance to the perfection of Blake Lively, their abilities to the incredible skills of Sia, and dreaming of living in a Big Little Lies’ house. With social media out of their lives, they could stop constantly bombarding themselves with photos of lifestyles that, for the majority, are unattainable.
Instead, millennials could focus on what they are good at, what they would love to try and keep doing it until they are experts or professionals.
I stopped comparing myself to anyone else years ago, but I know plenty of young women who are constantly concerned with their hair and eyebrows and obsessed with Kim Kardashian’s life.
As a parent of a millennial myself, I’d like to apologise for giving my son the idea that he has to work all the hours in the week except those that he’s sleeping.
I worked hard and played hard and I slept. He has cut out the fun part, aiming to get rich quicker, buy a property, find a girlfriend and not have babies.
I had hoped that by changing my life to one of work less, write and travel more, I could demonstrate by example that he doesn’t have to work so much. But then I have a private pension which kicks in next year and he still has to earn his.
After he’s earned that security manager role that pays £70,000 per annum and worked at it for twenty years, maybe then he’ll have some fun.
Social media is outside of his sphere of interest. He has no desire to compare himself to anyone. He’s on his own path. With his work schedule, he wouldn't have time for social media even if he were interested!
The opportunities are there for a satisfying work-life, millennials just have to tear their eyeballs away from social medial to find them.