Articles

Are Millennials The Loneliest Generation?

By Psquared - August 07, 2019
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Millennials are such a strange generation. And not because we’re obsessed with brunches where we pay way too much just to have someone put some avocados on our toast or even because we’re willing to try mustard-flavored ice cream. Yup, that’s a real thing. We’re at a very unique crossroads. We’re the first generation to gain the technology that has changed the way society functions in our formative years. The internet is still relatively new, and we remember a time before it, while Generation Z and the next to follow will have only lived in a world where the web exists.

So how has that impacted us? You may think that it’s for the better, since everything nowadays is so much more convenient and it’s easier than ever to stay connected to anyone and everyone that we want. However, it turns out that isn’t the case. It shouldn’t shock anyone that millennials are one of the most anxious generations, but it seems that we’re the loneliest as well…

Millennials

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First of, it shouldn’t come as a shock that millennials are full of all sorts of anxieties.

We’re a punching bag for older generations, calling us soft and mocking all of our concerns because we seemingly have it so much easier than they did.

However, this isn’t the case, as we’ve gone through some serious economic recessions in our lifetimes before we entered the workforce. So we started with a handicap, and thanks to stagnating wages and sky-high inflation, many of us will likely never be able to afford a home.

Depression

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As if the grim reality of our situation wasn’t enough to get you down, depression is on the rise in our generation.

There aren’t any concrete theories on what one thing is causing this, but there are studies that show what is exacerbating it.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. We’ll get to that in just a few moments. For now, we want to focus on one particular element that is getting millennials down, and that is loneliness.

Loneliness

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Wait, how could millennials possibly be lonely? We live in the age of text messaging and social media.

We can connect to anyone at any time we choose. Just look at the number of friends you have on Facebook!

Well, look at the number of friends it says you have, then think about how many you actually see on a regular basis in real life. Though we are more connected than ever, we all feel much, much more isolated.

Research

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And it turns out that not only are millennials feeling lonely, but we are in fact the loneliest generation today.

New research from YouGov has found a concerning amount of isolation in this transitional generation.

The study involved speaking with over 1,200 adults aged 18 and over in the USA.  30 percent of millennials surveyed said they always or often felt lonely, compared to just 15 percent of baby boomers and 20 percent of Gen X.

The Damage

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So, we’re more lonely. What’s the big deal (other than how sad it is our parents have more active social lives than we do)?

Well, aside from making us feel kind of blue, it turns out that loneliness can be truly damaging to our mental and even physical health.

In fact, it’s been shown that loneliness is just as harmful to our bodies as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Dang. How did it get this bad for us?

Breaking It Down

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Human beings are pack animals. We are meant to spend time around each other. That’s how we evolved and thrived.

But it’s alarming when the participants in the study spoke about how many people they had in their lives.

A quarter of millennials say that they have no acquaintances. That’s incredibly jarring. One out of four people in our generation are so isolated they don’t even have passing relationships with people they could occasionally hang out with, like you’d see in this picture.

No Friends

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Did that last fact depress you? Well, buckle up, because it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

22 percent of the millennials who participated in the research said that they have no close friends, and 30 percent admitted to having no best friends.

Loneliness is cruel. The isolation itself makes you depressed, and when you’re depressed, what you need is a support network of close friends. Sadly, so many are lacking that. It’s truly a vicious cycle.

Causes

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So why are millennials specifically the generation that find themselves in this particularly lonely predicament?

The research delved into the reasoning behind this situation. Respondents talked about the difficulties they faced making friends, which ranged from a number of factors.

Shyness was one of them, as many felt to afraid to approach others. A lack of hobbies and interests was another, as these can help facilitate friendships. More worrying, 27 percent even said that they “didn’t need friends.”

Social Media

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And now we’re back to social media, which is the thing we alluded to earlier that is exacerbating these feelings of loneliness.

While we are more connected to each other than ever, we’re not actually connected to the person, but their persona.

We tend to exaggerate, embellish and even straight up fabricate the truth of our existence. We want to get all the likes we can, so we present a fictional version of ourselves to our followers. While they may like that, it leaves the real you feeling hollow in the end.

A Link

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Now, while social media use may have risen with our generation, that doesn’t automatically mean one caused the other.

However, according to a study from the University of Pennsylvania, a link has been found between social media use and decreased well-being.

“We set out to do a much more comprehensive, rigorous study that was also more ecologically valid,” says Melissa G. Hunt, associate director of clinical training in Penn’s psychology department. So what did they uncover?

The Study

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This particular study consisted of 143 participants completing a survey to determine mood and well-being at the study’s start.

They also shared shots of their iPhone battery screens to offer a week’s worth of baseline social-media data for the researchers.

Participants were then randomly assigned to a control group, which had users maintain their typical social-media behavior, or an experimental group that limited time on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram to 10 minutes per platform per day. And the results are what you imagined they would be…

Using Less Social Media

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We’ll let Hunt sum up their findings on the link between social media and well-being in our generation.

She said, “Here’s the bottom line: Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness.

These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

She then concluded by pointing out the seemingly oxymoronic-sounding conclusion, saying, “It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely.”

Put Your Phone Down

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When asked if we should all quit social media altogether, Hunt said we didn’t have to go that far, but to be aware of what’s happening.

“When you’re not busy getting sucked into clickbait social media, you’re actually spending more time on things that are more likely to make you feel better about your life.”

She also says to be wary of comparing yourself to others, as it tends to lead to feelings of depression in isolation. She concluded with some parting advice, saying, “In general, I would say, put your phone down and be with the people in your life.”

Comparing Yourself To Others

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Why do we compare ourselves to others so much when we’re on social media? It’s hard not to.

Especially when sites have “like” buttons, which literally assign a score to each of your posts. Instagram is aware of this negative mental health link to their platform, and are thinking of doing something drastic about it.

The app is now beta testing the dramatic step of removing visible post likes altogether in an attempt to eradicate the posturing, competitive nature of sharing.

Transitional Period

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If you’re a lonely millennial reading this and the findings are making you feel worse, don’t lose hope just yet.

The study on loneliness among generations didn’t end on a doom and gloom note. It pointed out other possible reasons why millennials are currently the most isolated.

It’s because we’re all at a very transitional phase in our lives. Our 20s and 30s are the period where we move, get our first jobs and start settling into the people we’re going to be.

Work Overtakes Everything

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These are gigantic changes, and tend to consume a lot of our free time, which can lead to isolation.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s permanent. Even if your new job is sucking away at your social life, it could also actually help improve it.

Nearly half of YouGov’s surveyed millennials said they’d made a friend at work in the past six months, with 76 percent saying they’d managed to make at least one friend through work or their local community.

Stay In Touch

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Also, if you have close friends you grew up with or met in school, be sure to hold onto those connections.

Six in 10 Americans surveyed said they’re still close to at least one school friend, and 34 percent are still friends with people they met in college.

However, as time passes, it’s easy to lose touch. Do your best to try and stay connected to them in real life. Social media can be fun, but as we’ve seen, it isn’t real life and can make you feel a whole lot more alone.