The internet is everywhere in the modern-day world, with Millennials being a unique generation as they were born during the conception of the internet and social media. Almost half of millennials feel like social media enhances their self-esteem, and 42% of millennials feel that social media enhances their sense of self-worth. As a result, we now have a generation of ‘Insta- famous’ social media influencers and people’s lives have never been so revolved around the online world before. However, the question remains: has social media helped or hindered millennials in their everyday lives?
Carphone Warehouse spoke to three experts within the field of psychology and technology, in order to discover whether the recent revolution of the internet and social media has made ‘generation happy’. Anna Akbari PhD, former professor of sociology at NYU, states that public validation, such as likes and comments, makes the whole experience of social media extremely enticing, so we have come to value our 2D selves more. Yet the happiness obtained from these likes seem to be temperamental. After speaking to a group of five females aged 19-22 it’s believed that there is a lot of pressure to live up to an unattainable standard of attractiveness that’s portrayed on social media, which has led them to believe we’re actually the unhappiest generation online. With as many as one in four students suffering from mental health issues, social media can be perceived as the main cause as to how we see ourselves.
As a result, many members of the focus group mentioned they would prefer Instagram didn’t exist, saying it does not make them feel empowered, but instead increases their anxiety as every day they scroll through to see other females who they deem to hold an unattainable level of attractiveness.
Akbari also makes a valuable point in the study; there is no regulatory body signing you off Facebook or Instagram after a couple of hours, nor is anyone stopping you from stalking people’s profiles, so it has become much easier to compare yourself to others. Whether it’s Kylie Jenner or your ex’s new girlfriend, Akbari warns it can be extremely self-destructive. In a society where Love Island divides opinions in the UK each summer, it’s clear that social media has a huge influence on people’s lives, and can even lead to extreme addiction, with many young people feeling FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and anxiety when they’re not connected to the internet.
However, social media can reap many benefits. It allows for us to maintain relationships spanning the globe, a concept which, twenty years ago, would seem highly unrealistic, and it allows for us to expand our networks, find new jobs, and gain support systems.
Donna Freitas, PhD lecturer and author of ‘The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to appear perfect at Any Cost’, warns us to take notice of when social media is starting to make us feel negatively about ourselves. Freitas describes our relationship with social media as love – hate and argues that we have become emotionally dependant on our phones. The romance with screens and social media shares many characteristics with that of an unhealthy relationship, and Freitas recommends that to control this we must “pay attention to the different kinds of experiences and feelings we have when we’re on social media and choose which activities to engage in”.
With all of this being considered, the way that social media has revolutionised modern life cannot be neglected and must be placed into consideration. Where there are many negatives to social media, there are a lot of positives. But, like most opinions, there’s always two sides. On one side you have the comparisons between yourself, and those who are smarter, prettier, or higher achieving than you seem to be. On the other, you have the creation of a world-wide support system, where physical presence is not needed in order to help you when you need it most. There is no doubt that if you look for it on the internet you will find optimism and happiness, whether it be pictures of cats or simply vine compilations.
Overall, for us to be happy online and maintain a healthy relationship with our online profiles, experts recommend that we use our social media accounts responsibly, with Akbari advising us to approach social media like a drug: fun, but dangerous. We must use them responsibly. Whilst it is possible for millennials to be happy online, I personally feel that we constantly abuse social media because we don’t allow ourselves to engage in activities on the internet that make us feel happy, and that’s where the problem arises.
All information from this article was sourced from: https://www.carphonewarehouse.com/broadband/internet-happiness-influencers.html
by Olivia Rogers