We have been raised in the millennial culture; memes, popular concerns and media forms have constructed the normal environment we grew up in for over a decade now. As a generation, we adopt the trends that characterise our culture. These trends shape our priorities, our values and the way we spend our time.
But how often do we stop to wonder whether our “normal” environment is good for our growth? Does it expand our views? Does it inspire us? Does it give us the courage and the tools to become strong individuals, driven by meaningful passions and goals?
My view is that millennial culture, for all its riches (and there are many, but this is not the scope of this article) has normalised some insidious habits that are stealing away our most valuable resources, namely our attention, our time and our drive to act. These habits are all the more serious because we’ve adopted them together, as a generation. In our (perfectly natural) desire to embrace and accept each other as messy and growing and imperfect, we have grown complacent.
Now, of course, we are messy, growing and imperfect. It is healthy to seek assurance in this respect, and we should come together to share our humanness. But this natural need for comfort has started hurting us when it extended to our less healthy habits.
We are now affirming one another in our inactivity, draining habits, self-indulgence and self-restraint, and we hail our weaker points as the golden thread that unites us. If we are to change things in our favor, we need to acknowledge that these are real problems that affect us all. I believe that we can overcome our distracted state, and this is my contribution. Here are 5 millennial trends that stand in the way of our development, and how we can change them.
Perhaps the habit-turned-meme that we all know best is procrastination. We all procrastinate. An infinite number of pages and websites are crafted especially to fill those empty moments of boredom, to capture our attention.The issue with turning a trend into a popular meme is that repetition leads to normalisation.
It has become normal, even reasonable to postpone what needs to be done, to not show up to ourselves and other people, to escape our responsibilities and our commitments. When our environment is sloppy, how do we hope to be uplifted? What motivates us to learn, to exercise, to pursue our passions?
We must motivate ourselves. We can turn our time into gold, but we need to show up for ourselves.We need to say no to what does not serve us, and we begin to do this by distancing ourselves from websites, apps and pages that do not bring value to our lives.
We can also stop acting as though it’s “cool” to procrastinate, because there is nothing cool, or magic, or interesting about not doing anything. Life is too full of possibility for this.
Rewind to last Sunday. I laid in bed all day, watching 6 episodes of Six Feet Under— that’s 6 entire hours! The following two days, I talked about it with my course mates knowing that we are sharing this common ground. I knew I would be understood. We all binge-watch, it’s a feeling we can understand.
Online streaming platforms are designed to encourage binge-watching. One click away, the next episode awaits and we can go on numbing ourselves, looking not at our own life, but at the lives of imaginary others.
The issue is not binge-watching per se. It is perfectly reasonable to watch two to six episodes of the same show, as long as we don’t do it regularly. It becomes unhealthy when we do it every day, or every weekend, or when we routinely pass out on opportunities for activity because it’s much more comfortable to lay in bed.
3. Social media comparison
We all want to show the best side of ourselves to people. We are evolutionarily programmed to do so, in order to attract a partner. We want to appear as though we know what we are doing, that we are in control of our time and our decisions.
Social media platforms are the perfect space to construct our ideal identities. You and I and our favourite influencers, we all show our best side to the world. This is great, because it is often our best side that inspires and contributes to the community.
But when we deny our darkness, the inherent struggles in being human, we stop being real. And when everyone else seems to ‘have it together’, we naturally start doubting ourselves. “If a certain person on social media is so productive, so thin, so sociable and positive, why am I not, and what is wrong with me?”
We need to realise that the only realness in life is in the humans we encounter in person. We are not perfect, only perfectly imperfect. Once we embrace our uniqueness, our originality and weirdness, we can start to become the best version of ourselves— which is the best we can ever hope to be.The more we learn and train in our darkness, the brighter our light shines. We need nothing more, only our own acceptance.
4. Being “cool”
It is cool to be cool. To not be affected by too many things, to not display too much excitement, or too much emotion for that matter.
We keep our dance movements classy (if we dance at all), we keep eye contact short, and we keep even our dates casual. We practice detachment from everything except the superficial, we look forward to nothing but getting wasted on the weekend, when we can finally let ourselves feel something in a mind-numbed rave.
Why do we seek to escape, instead of revealing in our incredible power of awareness? Because we are constantly inhibiting our drives. No one is born cool, we are all born with fire in our bellies.
We are animals, the life-blood in our veins wants to rush, the whole buzz and hum of emotions revolving beneath our skin need to be expressed. When we restrain our impulses for fear of being judged as “weird”, “crazy” or “too much/too sensitive/too loud”, we smother everything that makes us special. We lose our spice.
I say that being passionate is the new cool.Passion is real, it animates our bodies and our voices, it lights our eyes with the same glimmer we find in the eyes of a madman. Once we let our thoughts and emotions show, the world can see us as we are. We find our spark, and attract the people and opportunities that are in alignment with our energy. We open ourselves to more—more people, more positivity, more opportunities, and more life.
Most importantly, we inspire one another to get out of our rooms and shut our screens to really be together, to learn and to expand our minds, hearts and souls; to truly connect.
I’ve been seeing lot of people my age wearing a black sweater, with a big, bold inscription on the back: ANTI-SOCIAL SOCIAL CLUB. A proud display of social isolation.
I’ll confess, sometimes I feel that I would like to have this sweater. I, too, have a desire to be alone, to not deal with people. I am an extroverted introvert. My alone time is my treasure, and my solitary corner of the world is my sanctuary. Here I replenish my energy, unleash my creativity, and feed my spiritual needs. So please, do have alone time. Schedule it, before you lose yourself among the flow of people and events. You are your first priority.
But don’t let your need for aloneness turn into an excuse to escape social interactions. Social situations are the places where we learn more about ourselves, where we learn to relate, and to tell stories. It is where we exercise the muscle of our understanding. It is also where we are faced with our limitations: our ignorance (we are selectively ignorant), our occasional closed-mindedness (we are this, too), the places where we need to be more authentic (and this). It is where we grow as human beings.
And all of it is the most wondrous thing—for us to be able to get together and splash our unique colours onto a canvas, combine them to create a work of art that will leave us filled, changed, moved.
But here is a disclaimer: not all social interactions do this, only the best ones. This is why it’s important to choose our friends wisely. And to bring the point back home, we cannot attract these people unless we are genuine, open and willing to be foolish and weird.
These 5 points are not meant to be an exhaustive list of where our culture has gone astray. Rather, it points out some aspects we need to face in order to lead more meaningful and more fulfilling lives.
We are young, and we are here. We can numb ourselves, kill our time and miss out on each other. Or we can wake up and step into our power to create the greatest, most original works of art: our own lives.
The braver we are, the more we lift each other up and the more our community changes. We need to embody the passion, the authenticity and the understanding that we want to see in the world.
We are already creating the future, so let’s do it beautifully.
Featured Image via Unsplash