My sister recently told me that my life was a constant search for epicness. And she’s right. I can’t commit to anything because you just never know when you’re going to have to rid yourself of all your earthly belongings and run away to San Tropez. It happens.
Well, it happened to a friend of a friend of mine, and I know because I saw the pictures on Facebook. My fear of commitment seems to have reached new heights that even I could not have foreseen. In my latest display of immaturity, I rented furniture. The thought of actually committing to a couch seemed too daunting. What will I do with my couch when I am whisked off to the south of France? So here I am, in my mid-twenties, and I don’t own a couch. Blame Facebook.
In a Harvard Business Review blog, Daniel Gulati claims “Facebook is making us miserable.” Apparently, the ability to constantly compare every sector of our lives to others is “a key driver of unhappiness.” While our parents may have been “keeping up with the Joneses,” Millennials – those born between roughly 1982-2000 – are keeping up with the Joneses, the Steins, the Smiths, the Kardashians, and everyone in between. On a personal level, this is exhausting; on a broader scale this constant comparison and search for epicness are leaving a heavy impact on the ways in which Millennials view two of our most critical institutions: work and marriage.
According to Gulati, Facebook is a key contributor to career anxiety. The Millennial Generation is notorious for job-hopping and costing companies millions in turnover. It is rare for even a day to pass without a post on your newsfeed proclaiming: “I GOT PROMOTED!!” You can’t help but wonder, “How come I’m not getting promoted? She’s younger than I am. I should be in that position. Her agency must be better because they give faster promotions.” Here’s the thing: people have complete content control over their Facebook accounts. They are not posting “my boss just screamed at me because I’ve been wasting my entire day on Facebook” or “today I did nothing.”
Thus, our comparisons are based on tiny snippets of epicness that are sprinkled throughout otherwise ordinary lives. But for some reason, as we shuffle through pictures of lavish work holiday parties or “I love my job!” postings, we forget that these snapshots are not real-life portrayals of a career. And here we are, left dissatisfied with our jobs and in a constant search for a career with more. More meaning, more entertainment, more money, more epicness.
If Millennials are being bombarded with all of the epic moments of work, you can assume the same for relationships. Right beneath the “I got a promotion” post you will likely find another that says “John Smith is now engaged to Jane Doe.” You can click on that magical little heart and view pictures of the couple climbing Machu Picchu, staring into each other’s eyes at sunset, running slow-motion style on a beach. These moments do exist and they are truly magical. But they are rarely an accurate portrayal of couple’s everyday relationship. Unless of course they live on Machu Picchu in which case, yes – their lives are indeed extraordinary, if a bit muddy.
In the midst of these epic love fests, Pew Research hit us with a real surprise. A Pew Social and Demographics Trends report found that 44% of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 believe that marriage is becoming obsolete. Also noteworthy is the fact that 44% of adults between the ages of 24 and 34 were married at the time of the survey, as compared to an 82% marriage rate among that age range in 1960.
The decline of married couples has been growing globally over a number of years and there are many possible causal factors – the economy is certainly among them. Yet I wonder if our new, altered reality could also be contributing to the potential demise of this most sacred of institutions.
While people may have previously wondered how their relationships measured up to say, Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally’s (Meg Ryan), they could eventually re-enter reality and remind themselves that these are not real people. They are actors pretending to be in love. But now, the couples we compare our relationships to are, in fact, real people. They are our friends. And we go along with them as they take trips to Fiji, buy one another flowers, and declare their undying love on their Wall.
So we wait. We wait for a relationship that can mimic the highlight reel of a friend’s relationship.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the exciting moments that bombard us as we sign into our favorite space. Life may not always be epic but doubtless there are plenty of moments that are. It just so happens that we can see nearly every one of them on Facebook. Deep down, we know that life is not fully revealed on Facebook. But every now and then, it’s important to have a reminder.
I am giving myself until my 28th birthday to buy a couch. It will be easily disposable, from IKEA, and a picture of it will be posted on Facebook.