It’s a case of too much too soon for Rachael Shearer's generation, she says about the social media overload that tends to cloud reality.
The problem is overexposure. The result is disaster. The solution has yet to present itself.
Millennial, Generation Y or whiney twenty-somethings – whatever you want to call us – we are the way we are because we have seen too much. The Internet has opened our tiny eyes to a great big world of success, and we want all of it.
We were raised with encouraging phrases like “the world is your oyster,” tiger cubs frolicking in the wake of Ireland’s biggest boom to date. We were told we could do and achieve anything that we set our minds to, and at 17 or 18, that meant choosing what to study in college and working towards some semblance of a career after that.
We hoped for jobs that would pay well, cater to our interests, and maybe include a spot of travel. What happened while we were in college is the reason why so many of us are now nowhere near those basic goals, but striving hungrily towards astronomically higher levels of success.
Post-recession recovery and regeneration brought more speed, more tech, more social media and more access. Everything is available instantaneously and subsequently seems easier to discard or ignore. There is a constant feeling of being left out or left behind if you aren’t up to date with the latest everything. Life is a gigantic Netflix where everything can be dump-watched and assimilated in one sitting.
News has been reduced to headlines, Twitter feeds and shareable media on Facebook. Jobs are sought and bought via LinkedIn, and there is a constant sense of urgency to consume as much information as is humanly possible in one sitting.
In New York, I didn’t find this to be as much of an issue because everyone is 500 times busier, and receiving information seems to happen more naturally, accidentally or as a direct result of work. My Netflix account was used primarily for overdosing on Dawson’s Creek or The Gilmore Girls to wind down after a long week to pretend I was still a precocious 16-year-old, and any social media I used was for work.
My free time was for fun activities, shows, concerts and weekend trips away – never spent logging 12 hours listening to a podcast because everyone else was talking about it – I’m looking at you, Serial.
In Dublin, people just have significantly more free time. Most people work 40 hours per week (as opposed to New York’s staggering averages of 80-plus) and then have these great big quantities of time during which they can engage in a variety of trendy hobbies, or fall into a black hole of anxiety. In most cases, there is a charming balance between the two.
Since returning home, I have found myself saying the following sentences on numerous occasions:
“I’ve taken up running.”
“I’ve taken up yoga!”
“I need to get a juicer.”
“I’m just not that into Crossfit?”
I could probably say the same for 80 percent of my friends, generation and general age-group. We also read the same books, watch the same documentaries and listen to the same music.
To make us even more annoying, we are adamant that we are incredibly unique in our hip endeavors, and there is fierce competition to be the first to have heard, tasted or listened to something -- to be the best and to care the least.
Of course, this is all entirely unspoken, and rather than become openly competitive we have adopted terms like “networking” and “meetings” when it comes to hanging out with our friends who are equally or more successful in the same or a similar industry, and may be beneficial to us at some point in the future.
We’re not in Kansas anymore. We’re in adulthood and we’re focusing on careers that we don’t have yet but read about in an article on Vice and reckon we’d be pretty good at it.
So we post enthusiastic updates online and casually brag over lunch dates we can’t afford, while silently freaking out and wishing we could just exist in a hippy commune that closely resembles the carefree times of college.
So why is everyone so stressed? Twenty-five is a scary age. People are quitting smoking, opening savings accounts, and genuinely up running (while probably lying about the rest of it).
Even I have taken up moisturizing as a pre-emptive attack on aging, and I’ve begun to seethe as I see twiggy 19-year-olds trotting around town wearing no more than bras and panties. I fear the younger woman – and I am 25!! This is our first taste of being “old,” and we are losing our minds.
We cannot fall behind. We cannot be over-taken by whatever the next generation is (Z? Then what comes after Z?) And we cannot fail.
To me, this is a classic case of the grass being ever so temptingly greener elsewhere, and these lustrous lawns are enjoying a fertile existence online. Social media should be renamed Social LIES.
No one posts pictures of themselves sitting alone drinking wine out of the bottle and crying through 12 episodes of The Good Wife on a Thursday night. Instead, they post a convenient #Throwback to that time they climbed a mountain in Fiji while on a business trip looking hot as hell.
We all put our best bits online, and save the worst bits for our own private nights of self-loathing and disappointment. We wish we were doing what someone else is doing because it looks like so much fun.
We thought the world would be our oyster, but it’s more like a clam. We waste our free time doing what we think we should be doing, rather than doing what we want to do.
We realize that we are just another cog in the wheel, and that we are very ordinary. Maybe we aren’t even a cog in the wheel – maybe we are a particle of soil that the wheel can roll over and crush. We are soil!!
We become bored, and convince ourselves that we are unhappy. We are overexposed.