Recently, a video of an interview with Simon Sinek – an American/British author and motivational speaker – talking about his views on the development of technology’s impact on millennials has gone viral. According to Sinek, technology has played a significant part in why millennials have earned their reputation as “entitled, narcissistic, unfocused and lazy”.
Millennials, defined by Sinek, are people who were born in, or after, 1994. They are significant because they encompass first generation who grew up within the dizzying expansion of the technological world.
Though he constantly insists that this is through no fault on millennials’ parts, Sinek dubs them as fundamentally unprepared and consequently unfit for the ‘real world’, both in terms of their psychological personality as well as their general skill sets.
Research backs up what Sinek claims in the interview. Access to the internet causes a variety of issues – such as depression and anxiety due to self-comparison, cyber-bullying and envy; an increase in symptoms of ADHD; as well as severe body image issues that potentially lead to eating disorders. An overuse of social media does correlate with lower self-esteem and higher levels of narcissism. But, according to Julia Cottle, almost 10% of Facebook users display disordered social networking use. But what about the other 90%?
I am a self-proclaimed critic of the – at times – overwhelming presence of social media and digital. However, I believe that Sinek overgeneralises what millennials – or any internet user – use their time on social media and the rest of the digital sphere for.
In fact, I think Sinek oversimplifies the entire zeitgeist the millennials have been raised in.
He speaks about millennials failing to achieve the patience that is required to seek fulfillment, as they are used to the instantaneous nature of the digital world. However, even as someone who has a fairly old-school view on work ethic and the nature of relationships, I find his view on self-fulfillment narrow-minded. It assumes that this is the only template to success – as if the previous generations were better than “just fine” as a result. Additionally, he makes it seem like our existence on digital platforms are entirely different from our existence ‘IRL’. Subsequently, this negates certain forms of financial and economic success, such as those found through e-commerce. Furthermore, it overlooks reserved introverts who find solace in safe, controlled digital spaces to bond with fellow humans.
Additionally, he raises the issue of depression and the increase of students dropping out or taking leaves of absences due to depression. He fails to mention how the attitude towards mental conditions such as depression are being treated in a different way to previous generations. Though the progress may seem slow, mental illnesses are being destigmatised. In many circles, people are being encouraged to speak out about their experiences with mental illnesses. This was hardly the case a few decades ago. Perhaps these circles also exist in beneficial online forums, drawing people from completely geographical spaces together into one empathetic one.
Of course, this depression – or the millennial’s mantra of wanting to “make an impact” – could also be due to the front seat view the internet provides to a view of what some people call a broken society. News about the tragic flaws of our society is produced at a speed that has never been seen before. Is it better to be happier but grossly uninformed? Maybe not – in fact, it is thought that millennials more tolerant than the previous generations by a ratio of 2:1. Without the information, perhaps millennials may not be able to make strides in social justice that have been established so far.
To an extent, I agree with Simon Sinek – he makes a range of valid points concerning society’s relationships with the digital sphere and how it impacts us psychologically. In fact, it has the potential to be absolutely dangerous. We need to look at and understand the negative consequences in order to combat them. That was initially why I started this blog. However, it is as interesting to me to see the positive aspects as it is to brood over the negative effects.