Will Johnson is a biomedical engineering sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
When I think of Millennials, two pictures pop into my head. First, of course, are the tireless jokes Baby Boomers crack about avocado toast and safe spaces.
The second picture, however, stands in pride, in solidarity and in anger. For all the problems we’ve inherited from yesterday’s world (i.e. global climate change, capitalism, Trump, the return of the Nazis), we certainly are fighting back and fighting together. One such example is the international Women’s March, with two Millennials at its head, may yet serve as the proverbial icon of our generation’s unique hardiness and dedication.
Despite all the solidarity, togetherness and teamwork we boast at protests, we are hurting. According to “Psychology Today,” our generation suffers the worst mental health in medical history. Suicide rates among college students have increased exponentially since 2000. It’s now our second-leading cause of death,and it accounts for twice as many student deaths as alcohol-related accidents or injuries. We’re hurting from a pain different than any age group before us has ever experienced.
It’s the pain that silently stabs our self-esteem when the Snapchat face filter suddenly disappears. It’s the pain we must trudge through every time our stories don’t get as many replies as our friends’, every time our Tinder profile seems to invite only left swipes. It’s the pain delivered to our fingertips and felt in our heartstrings when the touchscreen shows us body, social and fashion ideas that we know we will never match. It’s the pain that arrives, eager and absolutely dripping with egotistical guilt, when social media enters the picture.
Multiple scientific, peer-reviewed studies of social media indicate that our use of Instagram, Snapchat and the like are changing the way we interact with others – and not for the better. The platforms and apps we spend so much time with have been shown to only increase the ways we compare ourselves to others. With social media in hand, we become the authors of our projected lives and the audience of everyone else’s. We don’t hesitate to manipulate the way we publish ourselves, and we certainly don’t hesitate to compare our true, honest selves to the twisted, manipulated ideals beneath the touchscreen. The studies have found that gender doesn’t matter. No matter where on the gender spectrum you identify, your Instagram feeds, Snapchat stories and Facebook updates are all competitions for admiration. Are there any real winners?
We are the ironic generation. The interconnected isolation we suffer every day — at our own hand, no less — strikes our self image with terrible blows. It shows no signs of letting up. We show no signs of letting up.
But, of course, we are the founders of the Women’s March. Our parents can laugh at us all they want, but one thing is for sure: we look to fix things. So how might we fix this? Obviously, social media — or at least, the way we use social media — explains much of the mental “un-health” our age group faces. Perhaps the adjustment to adult life and the day-to-day stresses of being a full-time student also play a role, but they don’t account for the dramatic difference between our generation’s self-esteem predicament and previous generations’.
When I think of Millennials, three ideas come to mind. First, I think of avocado toast. Second, I think of a hurting generation in hiding. We hide our true selves, the versions of ourselves with the most potential, behind the manipulations and Facetuned pictures of social media. Science says this wounds our self-esteem in indescribable ways. Science says the scariest thing we can do is to stop hiding.
Straddling the fence between those two ideas comes the third: our potential. Older generations make fun of us because they see, for the first time in history, an attitude of “we can do it.” And we’re not wrong. We can do it. We will do it.
But only if we come out of hiding.