January 5, 2017
From the outside, Gen Y seems to have it in the bag.
We’re the kids who grew up with the internet, the most life-changing invention, well, ever. We rapidly and easily learn how to use new tech, and we’re ambitious, creative workers. We’re educated, politically-aware, and we even have our parents fighting our battles for us. What an easy life. But it’s not making us happy, is it?
In the past few decades, anxiety, depression and stress among young people has rocketed. The average age of the first onset of major depression is 25-29. In 1993, young women were twice as likely to suffer from anxiety than young men - now they’re three times as likely. We’re miserable at work, too - over 50% of young people took a sick day due to stress during the last year, and reports of Millennials crying/having breakdowns at work are increasing. But we have all this help, all this support. What’s gone wrong?
There are three reasons we’re struggling: parenting, technology, and the death of patience. We have been dealt, perhaps accidentally, a bad hand.
'Helicopter parenting’, a relatively new phenomenon, is emotionally crippling us. Instead of making their children self-sufficient, thick skinned and able to think for themselves, affluent parents who want the best for their kids are effectively clipping their wings.
Most universities in the UK report an increase in parents at open days - and according to a 2007 survey, nearly 25% of all employers have dealt with parents involved in the recruitment and employment of graduates. Some parents have even reportedly called up their children’s bosses when appraisals go wrong, or to get them a better parking space. No wonder we’re depressed. We probably don’t know what we need or want from life if our parents haven’t told us yet. Plus, deep down, the shame of your Mum filling out a job applications must register on some level.
Strike two - technology, and the inability to be patient. These two go hand in hand as one has, unfortunately, given rise to the other. The internet, for all its huge benefits, has bred a generation that wants everything now. Want food, a film, a song, or a date? Go online and get what you want immediately. Nobody has to wait for anything anymore - and there’s very little understanding of ‘playing the long game’. The average young person has an attention span of just eight seconds. They will begin to lose patience with a web page if it doesn’t load in two. It’s fair to say the internet has bred this. However, what happens when Millennials encounter the real world, where same-day delivery can’t and won’t happen?
Simon Sinek speaks about this lack of patience in his talk about self-esteem, gratification and addiction. “There’s an idea of institutionalised impatience,” he says. “Millennials have grown up in a world of instant gratification.” Sinek also speaks about Millennials who want to quit jobs after eight months as they ‘haven’t made an impact’.
“What they don’t understand is that life, relationships and career fulfilment are a journey. You have to go through a slow, plodding, meandering process called career and life,” he says. “There’s no app for that.”
It sounds insincere - mocking, even - to suggest that we’ve been given a difficult start, especially as we have all these resources and help available. However, this stifling emotional scaffolding isn’t letting us develop. We don’t know how to support ourselves emotionally as we’ve never had to - parents and tech have always taken care of our problems.
The answer is to accept this - get past it - and take control. We have been done a disservice, and we haven’t had a head start like generations before us - granted. Feel free to hate banks, The Man, The System, and anything else which can't be controlled. We won’t change these factors. The only real hope is learning to rely on ourselves and making what we have work for us. We’ve had a rough ride, but now’s the time to take the reins.
The only way to get ahead in this world is to a) take control of our own lives and b) make smart decisions. Own it. The sooner we learn how to take care of our finances and stop damaging our chances of happiness, the better we’ll feel.