Many millennials have grown up on social media. We communicate in 140-characters or less. Our memories are edited through filters to look their best. Our accomplishments are constantly compared to the status updates of our peers. How does this impact our happiness?
Is Facebook making you miserable? Studies have supported this claim, suggesting social media may "feed anxiety and increase a person's feeling of inadequacy."
It's easy to see why. Our social media profiles tend to portray only one side of our lives. We'll post about getting a promotion, but will we talk about getting laid off? We share photos showing us relaxing on the beach or backpacking across Europe, but seldom do we describe the lonely nights spent hidden beneath the covers watching whatever rom-com happens to be on TV.
"Virtually every day of our lives, we're trained to lean towards something we don't have, which essentially trains us to be dissatisfied with where we already are."
Social media depicts an embellished story of our lives - an idealized version of our selves. We revise our statuses, photos and friend lists. Our self-esteem is influenced by the number of likes and retweets we receive. We have become addicted to a form of socializing in which we are always being updated and evaluated.
But how meaningful are these connections? How much of it is real?
These are important questions to keep in mind as we scroll through the latest posts from our friends and peers, comparing our achievements to theirs. In what ways are these comparisons affecting the way we perceive our own quality of life?
"Virtually every day of our lives, we're trained to lean towards something we don't have, which essentially trains us to be dissatisfied with where we already are," writes author David Cain in his new book You Are Here.
We're so busy feeling unsatisfied by the way our daily lives compare to the seemingly glamorous ventures of those around us, we neglect to appreciate the simple pleasures that bring us fulfillment every day.
How can we make a change?
We need more emulation and less comparison.
Perhaps we will always seek reference in the experiences of others - but what if we adjust the way we look at them? Rather than comparing your struggles, why not emulate their successes? Use your observational skills in a way of rewarding yourself rather than hurting yourself. How can you learn from someone else's experiences to better your own situation?
We need to embrace the situations we are in.
Millennials are living extremely varied lives right now. Some are screaming "YOLO" from the rooftops of foreign bars, maxing out credit cards in pursuit of an epic night out, while others are hibernating in their parents' basements balancing budgets and paying off debt. Our priorities are extremely diverse, and that's OK. Appreciate the moment for what it is, and for where it will lead you. We all have something to gain - whether it comes in the form of experience, a down payment on a house, or a new relationship. Don't torture yourself by thinking about what hasn't happened yet. Focus your efforts on getting to where you want to be.
We need to appreciate diversity of thought.
We're making hundreds of decisions every day, some with deep concentration and others without thinking twice. Some are wrong, others are right. And what's considered wrong for me may be very right for you. But that's not what matters here. Don't blame yourself because your processes and coping mechanisms are different from those around you. Be aware of how you handle these situations, and use this knowledge to better your circumstances in the future.
We need to refocus on mindfulness and living in the present.
We need to put down the camera lens and enjoy the sunset for what it is right now, right here in this moment. We need to reward ourselves for small steps, and we need to be genuinely happy (not envious) for the giant leaps of our siblings, friends and co-workers.
Your success is not measured by the number of likes you receive on your Facebook profile.
After all, we're all in this together. We're all trying to make the most of the day, so we can be happy in our lives and truly satisfied with what we have and what we've accomplished. We're all trying to prove to the world that we're a generational force to be reckoned with.
Rather than distracting ourselves with finding the right filter for what we put out, perhaps we need to refocus the lens to look inward at ourselves. We need to find more meaningful ways of connecting that go beyond a like or a share.
After all, life is not all glamorous. In fact, the majority of it is quite mundane. Your success is not measured by the number of likes you receive on your Facebook profile. Your experiences cannot be captured in a status update. So why do we keep acting as though life can be defined within the walls of social media, when we know there is much more to it than that?