Life is truly beautiful if you just stop for a second and enjoy the little things, a profoundly “innovative” Facebook status said accompanying my “friend’s” newest profile picture. It’s of her breathing in a red rose, on a nice summer day — somewhere in Malta. She was sure to tag it to let everyone know where she was.
I have rarely envisioned punching a girl in the face so vividly, and not out of envy.
It’s hard to imagine the idea of “stopping for a second and enjoying the little things” or “living in the moment” when deep down everyone online knows that woman took somewhere between 5 and 20 selfies, analyzed them thoroughly, and then took the time to post them on Facebook (not including the time she took to go back and check to see how many likes it had). It just seems like a lot of things to fit into one moment.
I wasn’t aware spontaneity can have such a carefully thought-out structure.
Technology, along with social media, seem to have transformed everybody into pure life lovers, adventurers, poets, philosophers and sophisticated culture barometers to the extent they just can’t bear the idea of keeping those insights, adventures and experiences to themselves. After all, if they did, it would be as if they never even took place. How could they ever deprive the world of the riches that is their authentic life experiences and knowledge?
People used to show off money, with fancy cars and flashy jewelry, regardless of whether it was earned or just inherited. Now, millennials appear to have gotten away from such trivial matters and replaced them with experiences — living life to the fullest — making memories and stories … and generously sharing them on the Internet as a show of social superiority.
For millennials, these experiences are the new currency.
Simon Sinek, a renowned author and motivational speaker, blames this on the time we live in, the era of instant gratification and participation trophies. According to him, lots of millennials were raised with the conviction they were special, without being taught the value of hard work and persistence.
Parents managed to sustain this illusion throughout school. However, once those same kids grew up and faced the real world, real jobs, with real bosses who demand real effort and results, the toll of parents’ negligence begins to emerge on the surface.
It’s no wonder so many young people complain about how pointless going to college is since it didn’t “ensure” them a dream job afterward. Millenials are found to be the leading generation in narcissism and entitlement, living with the convenient belief that success, in whatever form it may come, needs to be guaranteed by external factors rather than their own work. Ironically, “going out of the comfort zone” is one of the trademarks of their travel-inspired Facebook rants.
Experiences, on the other hand — especially when they largely consist of sharing them on social media — become “achievements” within much closer reach. Maxing out a credit card to fulfill a bucket list item of summering in Europe means more to everyone watching it happen in real time than being hunkered down in a 9 to 5 and smartly saving for the future (imagine those pictures).
A 2012 Harvard study revealed that sharing information about oneself on social media and receiving likes releases dopamine into the brain, just like many other activities people enjoy. Furthermore, as Sinek points out, Facebook and the likes facilitate weeding out the bad from the good and hence become perfect platforms for self-esteem boosts. It's quick satisfaction topped with a feeling of being accepted.
Millenials turn to social media to glue back their shattered delusion of how truly “special” they are. And according to Forbes, social media can influence travel choices far more than tourist agencies. It can become an avalanche that drags more and more people into the search of “experiences” they use to compete with one another.
Sounds a bit familiar? Perhaps the currency has changed, but its actual value and what it stands for? Not that much at all.