The short answer is that the young adults and teenagers of today feel alone in their relationships because we are, by and large, alone in our relationships – especially our friendships. Isn’t that contradictory? How can someone be alone in a relationship, something that’s contingent on not being alone?
For the answer, we need to look no further than how my generation is learning to have a relationship. It’s not something that’s taught in school, so unless our parents actively taught us, we’re learning by merely looking at and copying the relationships we see around us. So where is my generation looking to find relationships to mimic? Well, my generation isn’t necessarily looking for relationships to copy, but most of us are tuned into social media.
The Current Classroom for Emotional Education
Naturally, since all of us are looking at social media, we also see relationships on social media. By looking at relationships through the lens of social media, we see a gilded view of other people’s relationships. We see the joy-filled group photos from parties and hangouts, but none of the dedication or patience that goes into building and sustaining a healthy, fulfilling relationship. It’s not unlike the conventional view of entrepreneurship portrayed online. Young people surfing the web see the luxurious lifestyle without understanding all the risk and hard work that it took for the entrepreneur to achieve success. While it would be hard for my generation to mimic the Lamborghinis and mansions of high-end entrepreneurship, my generation can most definitely mimic the external view they see of relationships on social media.
My generation is in a situation where relationships are formed online with kids hanging out next to each other, but not necessarily with each other. With the popularity of text messages and social media direct messaging, kids can open up about things like suicidal thoughts and major depressive episodes while the person on the other end is watching youtube or scrolling through feeds of internet memes. By creating connections in this way, we end up with relationships that look strong but still can feel empty inside.
What’s the Solution?
So what’s the fix? Should my generation focus on putting the time and work in so that we can create healthy, fulfilling, supportive relationships in the long term? Even if the prevailing sentiment among my generation were that the future is going to be better, it would be a struggle. Many of us have had our brains hardwired to seek out instant pleasure. Our rampant social media and drug addictions are undeniable proof of that.
Then what’s the takeaway here? Is my generation just a bunch of shallow kids who are doomed to feel alone forever because of our inability to communicate our emotions and our desperate cravings for instant gratification?
I don’t think so.
But I also can’t deny that my generation has to work with a tough hand. There are a lot of problems that need solving here. First, we need to learn how to acknowledge and communicate what we feel as well as what makes a fulfilling, supportive relationship. The bottom line is that most of us just don’t know. Second, we have to overcome the need for instant gratification that has literally been coded into our brains. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we have to have the hope that tomorrow will be better so that we can believe that this will all be worth it.