(read time: 4 min)
In the age of social media and increasing globalization, millennials have grown up surrounded by others. They are not often alone, whether they were surrounded by family, school peers, or simply consistently engaged with others on social media. They have not been isolated. Yet, why do so many millennials feel this deep sense of loneliness, lack of connection, and the perception that others don’t understand them. They are longing for social approval, to be accepted by their peer group, and most of them find they cannot fill their time spent alone.
Is this what the constant engagement and instant gratification social media, dating apps and other platforms have done to an otherwise bright and well-intentioned generation. It has led many to social awkwardness or fearful of social situations, instead more comfortable retreating to their own homes to soothe with TV binges and scroll the latest feeds.
Teams but not community
The idea of being around others is not a foreign one to millennials. We grew up in packed classrooms or on sports leagues, and yet many of us didn’t feel a true connection to these communities. We understand how to participate as a part of a team, while often still feeling like an outsider, like we don’t belong. We have become masters of blending. We know how to people please our way into the best of situations, are masters of illusion, but often are not being vulnerable enough to let people see the “true us.”
We are used to the illusion of teamwork, yet we are all fighting for our own agendas. We are all pushing to be the most successful, chasing our own dreams and trying to appear like we have it together. We may care about others in our life, be a socially conscious generation that wants to make waves in the world, yet we are often absorbed in our own lives day to day. We are trying to keep our head above water dealing with insane levels of anxiety, strapped with student debt, issues with identity and finding our place in any situation. We may feel confident at times and at others feel like we are completely f-ing everything up.
So why do millennials feel so lonely and isolated in the midst of people vying for their attention and an abundance of resources offering advice?
We live in a time when we can have whatever we want, surround ourselves with whomever we like, and yet many of us are still lonely and miserable. Millennials are lonely and miserable in their jobs, their relationships, their friendships, and even by themselves. Therein the problem lies. It is not so much their environment as much as being discontent with themselves.
We are unhappy, unfulfilled, stressed, depressed and it affects every area of our lives. Our lack of community support and inability to truly be vulnerable, find “our people” and let others in leaves us feeling lonely despite not truly being alone.
We cannot be happy no matter our environment if we are not happy with ourselves. Perhaps we feel like a fraud, we don’t feel aligned and fulfilled in the life we are living. The advent of social media leaves us feeling that we need to share the “highlight reel” of our lives, but we aren’t getting real about our wants, needs, failures and desire to grow. We are going through the daily motions in our lives but don’t feel that we are making a difference in the world, and for a generation that wants to see the world changing, that kills our souls.
I don’t have the solution to this issue. All I can say is that as a millennial who is battling her own demons, finding happiness, and finally building a life I can be proud of—BE BOLD. Let others in on your crazy dreams and plans. Stop taking the pre-defined path you feel like you should be on and listen to your intuition.
We are losing far too many innovative millennial minds because they are stifled and stressed out of their minds in their jobs. Sure, we have a lot of societal shit to deal with as millennials. We have not been dealt the best hand of cards. But we are a forward-thinking bunch that are resilient and can overcome roadblocks thrown our way. We just need to realize our power and finally step into it. The sooner we get real, build supportive communities that allow us to truly express ourselves and take action instead of following society’s pre-defined plan for us, the better off we will be.
We are not drowning in our loneliness because we lack anything, because we aren’t brilliant, because we can’t hack it…we are drowning because we don’t realize our potential. For a generation that was told how great they were growing up, we don’t believe it. Without the job titles, degrees, labels or anything else propping us up, we are lost.