Everyone in life wants to succeed. Our entire existence is based on an innate desire to impress, to reach our goals and to be recognised for doing so. Why then is there such a stigma surrounding the success of the millennial generation?
The generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, also referred to as Generation Y, are widely considered to be a generation that are increasingly reliant on technology. A group of people who are labelled as being lazy yet seemingly entitled. These labels have been confirmed by author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek who, in a recorded interview which has since gone viral, provides an answer to ‘The Millennial Question’.
Sinek, highlights the negative impacts that this reliance on technology is having on this generation’s distorted view of success. He compares the addictive nature of unregulated social media to that of age restricted chemical stimulants such as alcohol and cigarettes. The impact of this reliance, rather than a deterioration of physical health, can result in an alarming and irreversible effect on mental health. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that recent research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that the more time young adults spend on social media, the more likely they are to be depressed. Significantly, participants who checked social media the most frequently throughout the week were over twice as likely to experience depression than those who checked more infrequently.
As damaging as the effects of social media may be, it is not the increasing levels of mental illness that are perceived to be affecting our ability to be successful. Rather it is the changing perceptions of what ‘success’ really is that is hindering our ability to do so. For previous generations, if a fellow classmate went on to be ‘successful’, it is likely that you would not know about it unless you had remained in close contact with that person. Success was likely to be defined by occupation or financial security. Today, this contrasts significantly. Simply at the click of a button we can see someone, perhaps someone we have never even met, appearing to be wildly successful. It has become apparent that success can now be measured by your following on social media or the number of likes you have on a heavily edited picture.
Surely then it is no wonder that there is an obsession among young people to become instantly successful. Apparent success of young people is all around us – it is inescapable. Take A Level results day as an example. No sooner had the results come in did Facebook become flooded with success stories and news of university places. We have, as a result of technological advancements, become used to instant information. We are now a generation of instantaneous activity. If you wish to form a friendship, simply send a friend request to receive an instant reply. You want to show appreciation for someone’s picture or opinion? Give it an instant ‘like’. Want to be wearing the latest trends? Next day delivery – Amazon now promises delivery within an hour in some circumstances. Want to watch a film without having to go out and physically buy a DVD? Stream or download it in an instant. As a result, when applying ourselves to higher education or the workplace there is a frantic need to reap the successes of our gains instantly.
Despite the constant advertisement of individual ‘success’ across social media, there is a contrasting message coming from the mass media. Year by year we are being told that we are seeing record numbers of students achieving top grades at GCSE and A Level. This is followed up by the question of whether too many people are going to university. The millennials are on track to be the most educated generation in history, with the percentage of those with, or expected to complete, a degree (per capita) being the greatest in comparison to past generations. Yet, as a generation we are also destined to carry the greatest debt as a result of our education – nearly double the previous generation.
So, what does the future really hold for millennials? Perhaps the biggest problem for this generation, much like the generations before and the generation to come, is the labelling of an entire group based purely on when they were born. Providing an entire group of people with a set of characteristics or expectations is the most detrimental thing we can do to a group of young people. To suggest that individuals, some of whom have an age gap of nearly twenty years, have the same motivations and perceptions about the world is entirely misguided and somewhat unjust. Our desire to be successful so early on in our lives is therefore most likely as a result of feeling a need to disparage the stereotypes attached to our generation. Our intent to be successful is not something to be discouraged or discriminated against, and so we must stop fuelling young people with fears of job security and societal pressures to succeed.
We need to ensure that young people explore their interests and apply themselves to something they love. To be confident of one’s individuality at a time when we are being collectively described as ‘Generation Y’ is the greatest form of success.
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