1,000 Likes Won't Make You a Success

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I attended my second son’s graduation this past weekend. By all standards a tremendously successful group of kids.  All-American athletes, nationally recognized activists, National Merit Scholars, organizers of an event to raise thousands for Parkinson’s disease just to name a few. 

The class of 2018 speaker, Brandon Grizzaffi, gave a terrific speech, but one line really stood out. He stated after sharing some of the class’s more noble accomplishments, “This is what we will be remembered for. Not the number of likes we got on photos, not how many followers we had, but the relationships we formed and the difference we have made.” Insightful words from an 18 year old iGen. 

Who are these 74 million iGen kids who are now entering the workforce, starting college or joining the military? According to Jean M. Twenge PhD, author of iGen – they were born after 1995, grew up with cell phones and do not remember a time without the internet. 

Just watching my son’s class this past year, they understand the power of these tools. For example, after identifying the fact that a school administrator in our town had plagiarized several communications and seeing a lack of response by the adults, they took matters into their own hands.  By using social media to highlight these documents they ultimately caused her to resign. Unhappy with the response to the Parkland and school shootings in general, an RHS underclassman teamed up with some of these seniors. They quickly spread their plan across the country to organize a national walkout from school to protest violence in schools and the lack of change that has occurred to stop it. That’s the kind of power they have at their disposal.

But there are downsides to the tools they have in their hands as Brandon rightly pointed out - kids worrying about number of likes and how many followers they have. What does this do to our kids?

According to Jean M. Twenge “They are at the forefront of the worst mental health crisis in decades, with rates of teen depression and suicide skyrocketing since 2011.” While she has identified 10 important trends shaping these iGen’ers, the third and fourth ones on her list “In person no more (the decline in in-person social interaction)” and “Insecure (the sharp rise in mental health issues)” should concern us all. 

-      College students in 2016 versus the 1980’s spent seven hours a week less on in-person social interaction(a

-      For iGen’ers, online friendship has replaced offline friendship. Teen’s social lives shifted decisively away from in -person interaction. (b

-      Recent studies suggest…(particularly social media use) does indeed cause unhappiness. (c

-      Another study of adults found the same thing; the more people used Facebook, the lower their mental health… But after they interacted with their friends in person, their mental health.. improved (d

So how do we combat these trends? 

We have to teach kids (and adults) the importance of in- person relationships. We need to give them the tools to learn the skills of recognizing, and then reaching out to comfort others in need. 

You see it’s too easy to think you are doing that when you “like” and comment on-line – but that is not true connection.  

There is no app for this. It can be awkward. But, people need to start being more intentional in their actions.  It starts by identifying and reaching out to someone you know that needs in-person interaction. Or, take your kids on a hike – get them off their phones. We all have the power to connect lives.

So yes, Brendon the iGener has it right – it’s the relationships formed – that ultimately matter most – not the 1,000 clicks on your photo. 

 
Jill Bornstein is the Co – Founder & CFO of Inspiring Comfort. Learn more about how you can comfort better at  www.inspiringcomfort.com
(a – Page 71 iGen,(b – Page 76 iGen,(c – Page 78 iGen(d – Page 79 iGen