In an article entitled “22 percent of millennials say they have “no friends” from Vox, a recent poll conducted by YouGov that found that 30 percent of millennials identify with feeling lonely. This finding is significant because that was the largest percentage amongst the subsequent generations (baby boomers – 15 percent, and generation X – 20 percent). Additionally 22 percent of millennials in that poll said that they had no friends (Resnick 2019).
The research on this is inconclusive on as to why. Most of which pointing out age as the main contributing factor; 30s and 80s being peaks for loneliness (Resnick, 2019). In addition to, the natural progression of life (career upward mobility, increased familial responsibilities, family and friends being further in proximity), and the idea that loneliness ebbs and flows; the idea that there are just points in our lives where we are more socially isolated than other times (Resnick 2019). Once we include contributing factors to this information we can gain a clearer picture on as to why. So what is going on in the life of a millennial in 2019?
I can only speak for myself and reference data that is already accessible, that being said, a good case on as to why millennials are so lonely can be made based on what we already know about this generation.
Lets start with the elephant in the room, social media. The idea that social media is making us less social is an idea that is trending downward. Social media is prevailing at its intend purpose of making us more connected. The draw back of this is the way in which we are more connected, and what we value as contentedness. I’m going to go out on a limp and say that millennials are more comfortable with indirect relationships. Who among us actually seeks irl (in real life) connection in 2019? I as a lot of millennials, get my social connection fix by looking at a friend’s snapchat story/instagram, or seeing what people in my echo chamber are talking about on twitter that day. If something significant is happening with my friend group/family I’ll know it because it will have been Facebook status update worthy.
There is no perceived need/desire to meet new people.
This is also impacting our romantic relationships. Millennials are less romantically inclined. According to the CDC (center for disease control), young adults are having far less sex than their baby boomer and gen X counterparts, and are trending downward for the average number of sex partners. I’m bringing this up not as a promotion for promiscuity but rather, to make the argument that a millennial’s ability to make real social connections have diminished over time and the advent of social media is a contributing factor to that.
From a financial perspective, millennials are just broke. The one sure fire way to battle social isolation, is to get up, get out and get active. Now someone please explain to me how I am going to do that with no money?
I’m not too proud to say that I’ve been the person to go to a bar just for the “atmosphere”, and only order water. And by no means am I implying that a person needs money to be social or that socializing is predicated on one’s financial ability to do so (the suggestion that there is a positive correlation between money and socializing), but it sure does help. I’ve had more fun with money or at lease access to it (parents/familial financial support), than I’ve had without it.
The federal reserve found that millennials have less money than baby boomers and gen X’ers did at our age, contrastly we also have more debt. Main contributors of this are the increased cost of living and student debt. The millennial generation was deemed the “brokest generation” by Slate. Millennials are also projected to be lesser off longitudinally than those of other generations. The contributing factors of this vary but what it boils down to is that millennials are not spending money in socially stimulating ways.
Why does this matter? Millennials are sad (47 percent of millennials being diagnosed with depression), lonely, and friendless so what?
It matters because we as a group of people matter. What we do with this world that we are inheriting will be indicative of our contentedness to one another. With social issues like climate change, reproductive rights, self sustainability, and general human rights on the top of the agenda for millennials, we have to be in tune with the plights of those around us. Not to mention millennials are the new role models. baby boomers are aging out, and gen X’ers quite frankly are to a degree disconnected literally and metaphorically. None of us are meant to be alone, we do not function well in loneliness; that’s why one of the cruelest forms of punishment in prison is solitary confinement. We do better together, as a country, as a generation, and as individuals (iron sharpens iron as does a friend sharpen a friend).
So what do we do about this, how do we change this trend? One of my general perspectives or how I approach most things is “how can I make the given circumstance work out in my favor?” (see My Black Perspective). As it relates to social isolation its simple, get social. One of the great things about this day and age is while we may not interact irl, its not difficult to do so. Back when I use to work in insurance I would always be networking with people, yes I was doing it to stimulate my business, but on the other hand, the sheer amount of what there was to do, a lot of it being free, was astounding to me (try utilizing tools like eventme, eventbrite and meetup). We can also lean into social connections that already exist around us. Whether that’s visiting family/friends that are close or having them over, extending that one minute water cooler conversation at work to a two minute water cooler conversation, or just being open to a random conversation that may spark up. These are ways of getting uncomfortable (growing) and being intentional in our social lives in a practical way that can and will go a long way if we are open to them.
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