There has been a lot of recent discussion around how Millennials are becoming more and more addicted to their online activities. This specifically pertains to their use of social media. There are two opposing views on this: they have become anti-social and prefer the online world; and they have become so social that they just cannot be offline and ‘away’ from their friends. In both views, the digital health of Millennials needs more attention.
Nearly all Millennials have smartphones. Most of them are social media users and are on popular networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
A study by Pew Research Center cited that a large majority (73%) of Millennials in America who are online even believe that the internet positively impacts society.
Millennial go online, author and post their own content, consume and share others’ content, and engage others in their social media accounts on a daily basis.
As the first generation to go digital, they’ve shifted a lot of activities from real life to online including connecting with friends, collecting information, getting updated with the latest news, expressing their opinion, and even shopping and retailing.
Millennials grew up at a time when gaming consoles were extremely popular and internet connections were being set up all over the world. Face-to-face interactions are not always necessary for them. Some of them might not even care about having face-to-face interactions at all.
In their childhood, most of them no longer asked if they could go out and play. They could just as easily go online and play. They could hangout online and have fun with their friends. They could even meet new friends online. They just zoned out while playing their network games – with their earphones blocking out all outside noise to boot. There was no need to get out of their rooms.
It’s not a surprise that Millennials do not seem to regard face-to-face interactions with the same importance as generations before them did. This is why they have been labelled as the anti-social generation. All the digital technology available today all make it more convenient to connect online. It’s impersonal and often does not require much emotional investment.
Millennials are thought of as lacking in social interaction skills. They would spend most of their time online and choose digital versions of just about everything. They attend webinars, watch videos on YouTube, compete in RPGs, and even find dates or life partners online.
Mental health experts are concerned about the digital well-being of Millennials as they engage in “passive” online connections and interactions. Because of their preference for online and digital interactions, they are damaging their social interaction skills.
They no longer know how to manage their reactions and actions in real life situations where they stand in front of the people they are interacting with. They no longer know how to respond to problematic or difficult situations where they have to talk to people face-to-face to resolve issues or come up with solutions. Maybe.
On the opposite pole, Millennials are viewed as the most social generation. They just cannot be without any social interaction, albeit mostly in the virtual world. As they find it challenging to be physically together, friends and family members connect with each other using social media networks.
They make new friends, find jobs, and hook up with business partners and suppliers online. Every time is always a good time to send a text message, post a status or a shout out, and put a heart or a thumbs up on their favorite posts for the day. They just cannot be without their digital gadgets or stay away from their social media accounts.
Recently, this seeming need for Millennials to be online and connected has been labelled as the FOMO syndrome or the Fear Of Missing Out syndrome. This also raises concerns about the digital health of Millennials. FOMO comes with feelings of anxiety, social inadequacies, insecurities, and a host of other negative thoughts and emotions. These can lead to more serious mental health problems and clinical depression – problems that affect everyday life.
Millennials are both anti-social and most social online. These two opposing perspectives are true depending on the circumstances. Instead of trying to label Millennials as one or the other, taking steps to improve their digital well-being should be the more important concern.
There are ways to maintain the digital health of Millennials or of users from any generation for that matter. A healthy balance of online and offline activities is necessary. Their presence and engagement in both worlds should give them growth and gratification in all aspects of their lives.
It is important for everyone to never lose sight of their values and goals in life. These should point them to the right direction and ‘regulate’ their digital time and activities. They are less likely to experience FOMO, for instance, if their need to be connected with family and friends is satisfied by sufficient quality time with them in real life.
There is life offline for both anti-social and social Millennials. Those who do not feel comfortable with face-to-face interactions do not necessarily have to be social butterflies online. They can still limit personal contact if they so desire. Social Millennials will, of course, not have a dearth of offline activities to choose from.
Millennials should learn how to manage their digital time so that they can devote more time to real life interactions. They should acknowledge this fact and start taking steps to organize their schedules so that they are not trapped in the online world 24/7 whether as anti-social or social Millennials.
People are naturally social beings. Technology has definitely provided a host of tools and features that make it possible for people of all generations to socialize and interact with each other. Even with the proliferation of new and innovative ways to fulfill this need, it cannot be denied that conventional real life interactions and activities are necessary as well.