It's the first week of college and you call your best friend. "It's amazing," she says, "I'm obsessed with college!" Hearing her words makes you choke back your tears and rethink your desire to vent about how homesick you feel, how intimidating your lectures are and how much you miss the comfort of your old friends. You say, "Wow, that's great. Yeah, I'm liking school a lot, too."
What is it about Millennials that makes us constantly forge happiness? How have we become masters of disguise, concealing our feelings and portraying only the best representations of our selves? Why are we letting ourselves go on this way?
My hypothesis combines social media and narcissism. We have the ability to remove unattractive photos from our Facebook timelines so that our "friends" only see us when we look good. We comment on people's Instagrams about how skinny they look and then silently wonder whether they really ate that huge ice cream sundae posted a few days earlier. We tweet things we think are hilarious and only feel good when other people agree.
We care more about our cyber selves than our actual selves.
Although Millennials have come of age in a whirlwind of technological innovation, we are not chained to social networks. We are not ruled by the gods of cyber space. We are certainly not controlled by virtual relationships.
I have faith in my generation. If we believe that we can break free from social media mania and adjust our lifestyles to reflect authenticity instead of deceit, we might be able to admit that life is not perfect, and then accept that people aren't, either.
Here are five simple things Millennials can do to regain power over their lives.
1. Listen to people when they talk.
Listening to people, as opposed to hearing them speak but zoning out and thinking about which spin class you're going to later, shows that you care. When you're out to lunch with a friend, put your phone away -- the emails can wait. When you're talking to your mom, close your computer -- you'll be eligible for free two-day shipping for another 18 hours. When you ask someone how they're doing, pay attention to what they say and respond -- inquire about their day, their job, their family. Take a cue from Aretha and give people the same respect you'd want in return.
2. Stop caring about number of likes.
They're hard to ignore and they make you feel good, but obsessing over the amount of likes or favorites you get on all of your many social media postings forces you to spend too much time on your smartphone and not enough time on yourself. If you can't bring yourself to disregard the notifications, try turning them off. When your phone or computer isn't erupting in a constant flurry of notifications, you'll be less tempted to check. In turn, you'll gain more control over how much of a presence social media has in your life.
3. Focus on the experience, not the reaction.
Erase the phrase "pictures or it didn't happen" from your vocabulary. If you find yourself doing something just to prove to other people that you did it, rethink your intentions. Ask yourself how you can benefit from the experience in real-time instead of contemplating how you're going to tell everyone else about what happened.
4. Be honest with yourself.
There's no point in pretending to be something you're not. Do things that make you happy and stop doing things that make you miserable, no matter your reasoning for getting involved in the first place. Embrace your individuality, whatever that means to you, and be willing to do the work that comes with telling the truth.
5. Be honest with the people around you.
A Facebook profile doesn't include all of the elements that constitute a human being, so stop trying to make it seem that way. People aren't always happy, we aren't constantly partying, we don't work out every single day. Let the people around you see the person behind the profile, that girl who seems to have it all together but secretly cries because she hates her job or that guy who binges on potato chips because he can't stand the taste of protein shakes. If you let people in, there's a chance that they'll be inspired and let you in, too.