I am your token millennial. I was born in 1987, (you can check my driver’s license should you feel skeptical). I am young enough to use google as a verb, but old enough to have owned mix tapes. I refuse to shop at Walmart because of the labor conditions in their Asian factories, and yet I will admit I have no idea who my state representatives are.
That is the millennial generation. A passionate sea of contradiction and controversy. Our parents told us that we could follow our dreams and our hearts. As a result, we travel on a dime, fight for the acceptance of all people, while at the same time being the most narcissistic generation in history by a long shot. It’s almost as if millennials are pinned between technology and a deep need for fulfillment, and so we grab onto the new, while feeling nostalgia for the way things used to be.
“… we can talk about how much we love people, or how passionate we are about the homeless, but if our iPhone is out of storage because we have 2,000 photos saved of ourselves and our meals, we aren’t compassionate, we just want people to think we are. And then hit like.”
Millennials are many things, one of which is depressed. In fact, we are the most depressed generation. We are constantly connected, and yet studies show when you ask millennials how many confidants they have outside of their families, whom they truly trust, the most common answer is ZERO. Basically those 1200+ friends on your timeline wouldn’t let you watch their cat.
We are the generation of hashtags and filters. Everything is created to project an image of who we want to be, which is never as we actually are. We try our hardest to be witty in 140 characters or less. We post photos of our nights out, and the scene is always way more intriguing than the night actually was. I think some of this is the reason we often feel unfulfilled. We want everyone around us to think we have it all together but we don’t.
This is the generation of competition. There was a time when you just had to compete with your neighbors over Christmas lights and tacky lawn ornaments. Now you can’t pee without seeing how much better than you 250 of your “closest” friends are. Newsfeeds are filled with all the awesome philanthropy, money, and stardom your old college roommates have found, and then we look at our own lives and we feel like crap.
We name our children things like Apple, and Atticus, because we wouldn’t dare allow one other kid in their class to have the same name as them. No offense Janet. Our kids are an extension of us, and we are special. We are different. We are so happy and fabulous. Except that we are…the most depressed generation in US history???
Here is what I think is part of the problem, social media has made us self-centered. People who are actually “other oriented,” don’t spend hours cropping photos of themselves that they can throw on their interweb shrine. They just don’t. So we can talk about how much we love people, or how passionate we are about the homeless, but if our iPhone is out of storage because we have 2,000 photos saved of ourselves and our meals, we aren’t compassionate, we just want people to think we are. And then hit like.
In his book, The Lucifer Effect, Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, Philip Zimbardo, the creator of the notorious Stanford Prison Experiment, essentially says that under the right circumstances, most people would do evil things. Want to know the main seed of nearly every evil act? Selfishness. The more self-centered we are, the more evil we are willing to become. Today, 71% of American adults think 18-29 year old millennials are selfish. Enter selfie-generation.
Isaiah 14:13 speaks of the fall of Satan by giving us a little more background information. It says this of the devils fall, “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God;’”.
Btw, Satan is not the actual name for the devil. His name is Lucifer, which translates to “light-bearer”. We just call him Satan. The Hebrew word satan means “the adversary.” Lucifer became the adversary, or accuser of God, when he decided he wanted a place to rule in opposition to God’s government. They are currently battling for earth. The devils love of God, and good, and morality, became eroded by his love for self. The light-bearer, became known as the Prince of Darkness. You see, self is the tiny black seed that if watered, chokes everything, even its host.
I feel like social media makes it almost impossible to not become an ego maniac. Studies show this generation is 40% less empathetic than the generation before them. Remember how racist and judgmental you feel like your parents are? Turns out, crazy aunt Beth cares more about other people than you do. Selfishness is the root of all evil. It’s the breath of Satan. I’m not trying to have any common ground with the guardian of hell? No thanks. Pass on that. This should freak us out! But instead we just tweet it, hoping people will think we actually read an article. We didn’t. Just the headline. But we are super passionate about it now. AmIRight?
Christ’s ENTIRE gospel message is about dying to yourself and living in Christ. Social media posts that center on me, selfies of me, snapchats of my every waking second are the complete opposite of that message. The Lucifer Effect has fallen on all of us like the black plague.
And look, for my non-Christian friends in the back, I see you over there.
Even in evolutionary logic, the tribe only continues if it maintains the goal of taking care of one another. Your brain is wired with hormones that cause you to want to need people, because your anthropology knows that the pack goes extinct if all the members don’t look out for one another. This is a basic human principle. I look out for you, and you look out for me. So what happens when I feel like I have to constantly look out for myself? I get anxiety, (rates have never been as high as they are today). I spend my energy focusing on myself, the same energy that could have been spent on being a productive member to the group.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that we have to get a grip. If the devil can’t get you trapped in sin, he will get you trapped in self. We can’t be the center of our own worlds, and yet we have pages dedicated to how funny we are, smart we are, and beautiful we are. If you don’t think that makes us more selfish, you are either lying, or naïve.
And so for the 100th time last week, I deleted the Facebook app off my phone. Please pray for my willpower (I wish I was joking). Now I recognize that this doesn’t make me Nelson Mandala, but I am hoping it helps me be a little less Regina George. Besides, I should be able to have dinner with my husband without comparing my thighs to that girl I hated in high school.
Millennials are the most educated and diverse generation on the planet. I want to be able to use the fact that I am alive and apart of this awesome moment in earth’s history to focus on how I can make the world better. I don’t want to live an entire life for photo-ops and food pics.
The great evangelist John Wesley was once asked how he managed to fill the churches of England. His response was simple: “I set myself on fire, and people come to watch me burn.” There has to be more to life than me. Let’s set our egos on fire.
Maybe others will join as they watch us burn.
Editor’s note: This essay was first published by The Spilled Milked Club.
Heather Thompson Day is a lecturer for Southwestern Michigan College, Purdue Tech University, and Ferris State University. She is the author of five Christian books and writer for The Spilled Milk Club. Facebook her, or check her out on Instagram.
Photo by gingerchrismc