Oh, to be a Millennial. Which of course, I barely know anything about. I’m literally on the cusp of the Millennial movement, stuck in between the end of Gen X and the first year of the Millennial generation. Early 80’s babies, we don’t really connect with those who were born in the 70’s, and we definitely don’t connect with those born in the 90’s. We remember life without cell phones, even though we can’t live without them now. If you’re from where I’m from, you may have a beeper, and a pocketful of quarters to check your messages at the nearest pay phone (gross!). Mindless scrolling through other people’s lives weren’t of much interest to us; we were more focused on living in the moment, evidenced by our frequent nights of three-way calls. Of course, we all had dreams of fame and fortune, but had limited outlets of gaining either. Nowadays, millionaires are made every day, sometimes with the simple sharing of a meme.
I always wonder how life would have been had social media been around when I was younger. I wonder if, instead of spending afternoons alone in the park, writing poems and stories, would I have shared all of them virtually, for the world to see? Rather than exploring my city via public transportation and finding my inspiration in the organic, would I have found it via a celebrity’s Instagram feed? If I couldn’t post my day on SnapChat while it was happening, would it have meant it really occurred? If I don’t lift my finger to “like” someone’s status update, does it mean I really saw it?
I love seeing the younger generation embrace technology, because for many of them, it engages them more, perhaps even makes them more creative. But my biggest fear is that it also has the risk of making them less present, less authentic. If so much time is spent on sharing the perfect moment, will we prevent ourselves from experiencing it? And of course, I won’t blame it just on the generations after us that are growing up. I too, like others my age, am guilty of “over-sharing” at times, subconsciously (and sometimes consciously!) seeking validation from people I’ll never meet. It sometimes feels that social media hasn’t made us more confident, but instead has found a way to tap into our insecurities and force us to try to overcompensate for them. It’s becoming more and more difficult to pull ourselves away from the allure of the FOMO (fear of missing out) so we can go live our actual lives.
The ultimate crux of the issue is how we can start to live more authentically, to break out of the bubble. The dopamine shot we receive when someone gives us virtual validation is akin to what I imagine the rush of ecstasy someone feels when taking in an illicit drug. It can all be likened to an addiction, and one that is becoming harder to steer clear of, when technology is such a large part of our lives. A crack addict can put themselves in situations that will help them avoid the lure of their kryptonite; conversely, especially when we use technology at school or work, it is a lot more difficult to prevent ourselves from imbibing. It essentially boils down to us making a conscious decision to NOT indulge; to focus ourselves and learn to live. I’ve written about something similar before, but the charge I put forth is the same. Put down the smart phone and pick up your head.