Universities never really prepare you for postgraduate life. The shows you watch, the movies you listen to, all of it just tells you these false ideas of what it means to graduate from college and go into a low-paying job in order to work your life away. But, these are age-old complaints. Nothing out of the ordinary, just another millennial complaining about hard work.
But what if that is the point, what if all this complaining from the millennial generation is really demonstrating that life is not about hard work? There has to be a reason our parents slaved away at jobs they hated in order for us to have a better life. Now that it is here, we complain about the way things are and how hard our daily schedules of work and online shopping are. These lifestyles makes this particular generation ripe for criticism compared to the struggles that other generations have had to face. What is not being considered, however, is the idea that the generational struggles are vastly different.
For most of the people ages 20-30, the household was one with about three children, divorced parents and a television set in each room. There wasn’t any starvation, children didn’t have to work in factories, and so on. But this environment did create one thing: the complex concept of “enough.” This is a generation who were raised by parents constantly working for more, always trying to buy more, do more, be more. That has produced a complex society in which the feet are always twitching, the mind always going.
Take this psychological atmosphere and mix in a heavy dose of internet. Not just access to online dictionaries and other research tools that have created an intellectual boom, but constant bombardment of other people comparing themselves to you. The idea of social media was originally fun and something to do for thirty minutes a day. Now, however, it consumes the millennial brain and places people in mindset that is made to fail. If we are forever comparing ourselves to others, we are never finding any real sense of self-worth. Not like our parents had. For the most part, there was only comparing yourself to yourself. You don’t want to live like you did when you were growing up so you work hard, make some money, make your life better. Or at least better than what your life would’ve been before.
For millennials, it isn’t so easy. There is the constant comparison at the fingertips that reminds you over and over again that you are not good enough. Sure, you are making more money than you did a few years ago, maybe you have traveled a little, picked up a few hobbies, but that isn’t enough. Not when @Sammmyybeee on Instagram is posting photos at a new location every week, displaying the company she started, and showing off how great her post-baby bod looks. Now, you are forced to realize that it isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to be better than you were, you have to be better than the others too.
Not only are we using comparison to understand our own status in society, we are using it as the only determinate of self-worth.
Human nature has been like this for a long time, we have been competing with one another for psychological gain for as long as humans had complex thoughts. Researcher Lynn E. O’Connor found that “the ability to make social comparisons provides information about our status and similarity to others. The importance of status and ranking has been viewed largely from the perspective of wanting to win in social competition, maintain or increase their status, and/or avoid losing status rendered subordinate or rejected.” This means that we are using comparisons to others in order to provide status symbols and acceptance. However, with the structure of society today it seems as if the newest generation to enter the workforce has the ability to take this to a more extreme level.
Not only are we using comparison to understand our own status in society, we are using it as the only determinate of self-worth. This concept is accelerated with the advent of social media and we can’t help but let it impact us on a daily basis. Day in and day out, we are just thrown against a wall of comparison, which downgrades our ability to love and be loved in return. This affects our personal relationships and relationships with ourselves directly. Not only are we looking to find the best partner in order to compare to other sets of partners, but we are second-guessing ourselves with these partners because we have access to so many different options. This comparison makes us views our friends, lovers, and family as less-than, which also causes us to reflect poorly on ourselves. Comparisons is hindering our ability to see what is good enough for us, and only focus on what another person has. While this has been a pitfall of society for ages, it is becoming particularly prominent as social media and values change.
Aziz Ansari once said in his book Modern Romance, “We have two selves: a real-world self and a phone self, and the nonsense our phone selves do can make our real-world selves look like idiots. Our real-world selves and our phone selves go hand in hand.” When I read this, I realized how true it was. I thought about how often I see pictures of friends doing so many awesome things, traveling to so many cool places, and I become depressed because my life isn’t like that. But then, I look at my own profiles and I only see photos of me doing cool and exciting things. I don’t post day-to-day activities because why would I? Why would I want to share with everyone how bored I am, my daily battle with depression, or my struggle with weight gain? The purpose of social media is to show off the good things, no one wants to show how shitty their life is because then our status goes down in comparison with others.
Jane went to the Bahamas to prance around with her hot post-baby body? Well, I better post a photo of me at the pool looking good too. But wait…I don’t have that. I haven’t been to the pool yet because I’ve been working and feel insecure about my body. But now I feel even worse because Jane is able to display her beauty and cool life and I can’t. Jane however, looks at the photo and sees the days without eating breakfast and lunch, the postpartum depression, or the nights of fights she got into with her husband on the trip. People aren’t going to share the bad things behind their posts, they only want to see the good. But this affects us negatively because we think that it is possible for people to have only good in their life.
The false reality created by social media is creating a society of even greater comparison, and the newest generations will always be reminded that they are not enough.
Current music: Love is by Dude York.