Attention to our generation is similar to a drug. It’s intoxicating, tempting and addicting. We’ll do crazy and out of character things to gain just a fraction of it and those who have tons of it already; we couldn’t be more jealous.
Throughout our youth, we are told time and time again to ‘express ourselves’ and to ‘say what’s on your mind’. In the long run, this was only molding our brains to believe that everyone would care about everything we have to say. And when we discovered platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, we found out that we could shout our every thought, opinion and waking moment from there and project it onto those who were curious enough to read. But those who read usually don’t consider your opinion. All they are thinking about is how they are going to respond, either with a ‘like’ or a comment that ferociously disagrees. It’s almost like those types of people who you engage in conversation, but as you speak, you can just tell they are waiting for you to finish so they can begin again, not taking any of your words past the surface level.
I’ve been in situations where if a picture on Facebook or Instagram didn’t get a single comment, it’s worthless to me. What’s the point in posting if I receive no gratification in return? It’s a scary mindset to recognise once you come out of it and realise that it doesn’t come from a place of entitlement or arrogance; just low self-esteem and the need to feel wanted by anyone.
Comedian Bo Burnham, a performer himself, brings an interesting look from the perspective of someone in the limelight. He says ‘once we find out that not many care about what we have to say, we flock to performers because those are the people who have been lucky or interesting enough to find an audience’. We become part of the audience we were hoping to create for ourselves, and hang onto every word of advice they say, desperate for a small fraction of the success they appear to have. And what do a good 75% of them give us hopeful millennials? ‘Follow your dreams’.
‘Millennials’ and ‘Gen Z’ers’ are risky terms to throw around, as the labels have grown to generalise struggling generations that have been brought up a different way to any generation previous. Generation Z (people born from the mid-1990s to early 2000) and millennials (those born between 1982-2004) could otherwise be referred to as the ‘Me’ generation, due to our perceived obsession with ourselves and how we look to others. I disagree and see it more as the ‘THEM’ generation, though I realise that has less of a ring to it. If you are going to criticize these generations for their obsessive habits, realise that the unhealthy aspect of it comes from impressing others and wanting to fill the empty hole of self-esteem. We’ve had to remind and re-educate our own generation to do things for ‘OURSELVES’ and not always ‘THEM’. To consider our own mental health and wellbeing, instead of soldiering on in ignorance for the fear of being judged or displeasing ‘THEM’. When we make the choice to broadcast every detail of our lives to an audience, we become performers 24/7 and the fear of slipping up or dropping the act for even a second grows to a monstrous proportion.
The world has seen how we treat those in the limelight and has offered us many platforms in which we can be just like them, at the small cost of our self-esteem, dignity and morals. The chance of having fans, adoration and endless attention at our fingertips is mouthwatering for our generation. The hunger for self-gratification can be so overwhelming for people trapped in social media’s clutches that they can lose a part of themselves, only showcasing and grooming an image or persona suitable for their audience. But this is not all. Behind many social media posts and moves, there is even the smallest want or need for a reaction to it. These days, people even get a kick out of an angry reaction, just for a reason to keep proving to themselves that somebody cares.
While I see my generation as one of the most independent and inspirational generations, we still struggle with the platforms social media gives us to perform on. And our performance, especially on the internet, is always open to criticism. This criticism has the power to break us down into feeling completely worthless, but we gave social media this power in the first place. The sacrifices of mental and physical health people make in order to maintain their ‘brand’ to please ‘THEM’ out there needs to change.
I don’t have all the answers, but you know what they say in support groups: acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it.
Written by Tara Jackson
Edited by Judd Zhan