Simon Sinek, a British/American author and motivational speaker, certainly thinks so. He asserts, “Millennials are growing up with lower self-esteem than previous generations; through no fault of their own, they were simply dealt a bad hand.” A reader shared with me the YouTube video entitled, “Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace,” involving an interview Simon did with insidequest.com on Dec. 27th, 2016, and I was immediately intrigued. I found him to be very thought-provoking, with a style that was both informative and humorous. The essence of his video conveyed the dangers of social media addiction in millennials in particular (those born between 1984 and 2004), and how this comes about.
Science tells us how the human body produces the chemical Dopamine whenever we receive a text and e-mail on our cell phones, or receive a Tweet or a Like on our Facebook page, resulting in an immediate feel-good effect (Psychologytoday.com, September 11th, 2012, “Why We’re All Addicted to Texts, Twitter and Google,” Susan Weinschenk Ph.D.). In the video, Simon notes how Dopamine is the same chemical the body releases when exposed to alcohol, gambling, and smoking. Therefore, one can easily see how the social media addiction can be so prevalent.
As parents, we all know the important role an adolescent’s peers play in his or her development. Now if you can imagine presenting this Dopamine-inducing device, along with the abundance of social media, to a young child or budding teenager who’s dealing with the stresses of school, grades, parents’ expectations, normal responsibilities, peer pressure, relationships, extracurricular activities and, for some, even a job, it’s not surprising it can become more than a little overwhelming for them.
I found especially poignant Simon’s remarks about teens turning to social media in these times of stress, dealing with what millennials describe as “superficial friends who can leave you at the click of a button.” He suggests this non-personal connection “influences their ability to form truly meaningful relationships as they get older.” Simon indicates further that subsequently, “Millennials don’t possess the coping mechanisms to deal appropriately with stress.”
Unfortunately, a 2016 study out of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine shows that people who spend more time on social media have higher levels of depression. I think this reiterates Simon’s point that it’s not the device that is the problem; it’s the “imbalance” of too much use of, or reliance on, it that is the real issue.
Of course, parents have a role to play as well. Lots of experts have different views on ineffective parenting strategies. Some of the shared characteristics, however, will sound familiar. Such as telling our children they’re special and can have or be anything they want in life; along with giving children everything they ask for without them earning the possessions and rewards first, making it all-too easy to obtain. Ultimately, the result is that they go on in their careers and life expecting far too much, too soon, and often without the effort and hard work required to make it happen.
I admit, as a parent of millennials myself, some of this information can be a hard pill to swallow. However, all is not lost; there are still things we can do and ways we can influence them positively. For instance, Andy Puddicombe, the founder of Headspace.com, a meditation site, offered these excellent tips on NBC’s Today Show (January 25th, 2017). He says cleaning up your home screen on your cell phone and moving social media apps over to a side screen will help prevent the temptation to go into them as often. He also says turning off your “notifications” eliminates those persistent audio signals that prompt you to check your phone every time there’s a message. Also, Commonsense Media (from commonsensemedia.org) advocates device-free dinners with the family, allowing dialogue and interactions to take place more naturally and uninterrupted.
Likewise, we can continue spending the quality time we do have with our children (sans cell phones), sharing meals, family time and traditions, our values, and communicating with each other on a personal level. At least in this way, we can help them build those personal relationships that are so critical. We provide their foundation and their safe haven in life, while simultaneously watching and letting them grow into their own selves. They’ll get there; after all, we all do eventually.