My generation has an allergy to boredom, and it’s making us miserable. Picture: iStock
My generation has an allergy to boredom, and it’s making us miserable. Picture: iStock

What I hate about my generation


I'm a millennial, which means I was born between 1980 and 2000. But I'm also part of another generation some researchers call "iGen", consisting of people born after 1995.

Millennials and iGen are very different. iGen are growing up in the age of smartphones and social media.

To iGens, smartphones aren't even "smart phones" - they're just phones. We're growing up with the entire internet in our pocket.

The same can't be said for older millennials.

And unlike older millennials, iGen are being raised in an era of instant gratification. Everything we want, everything we need to know, is in the palm of our hands, literally.

Want to see a movie? Netflix. Want to see what your friends are doing, right now? Too easy: Snapchat. Want to talk to your friends? Text them, they'll reply immediately. Want to go on a date? No problem: Tinder. Want to listen to a song? Spotify and iTunes give you access to almost every song in existence.

Want to know the answer to some obscure question you know the answer to, but has fleetingly escaped your brain? Don't ask a friend. Don't mull it over for a few minutes. Google it.

Anything we want is never more than a few clicks away.
Anything we want is never more than a few clicks away.

Smartphones and the internet have given us the ability to constantly occupy ourselves. It's made us impatient. It's destroying our ability to focus. And it's giving us an addiction to perpetual stimulation and an allergy to boredom.

For the whole of human history, boredom was an integral feature of day-to-day life. In fact, it wasn't even called "boredom". Sitting down, staring at the trees while you wait for someone wasn't "boredom", it was just "life".

If something bores us for one second, we immediately move on to something else. Even conversations. We have no qualms about pulling our phones from our pockets midway through a conversation.

Unlike every generation before us, we aren't forced to interact with our fellow human beings or to sit alone with our thoughts. We have an easy out, right in our pockets. Wherever we go, we have a device that lets us escape the world around us.

Someone is always doing something more interesting than you, so why not just see what they're doing? After all, it's just so easy: there's a never-ending flow of tweets to read, movies to watch, songs to listen to and memes to laugh at.

The way my generation responds to seeing anything spectacular is to film it, and post it on Snapchat. It's incredible. Instead of actually experiencing our experiences, we film them to show others that we experienced them.

We're living in an age of "content overload", so we have the attention span of goldfish. We read headlines instead of articles. We watch second-long videos for laughs. We scrutinise tweets instead of books.

We take for granted the world's everyday miracles. We appreciate the world's marvels through the camera lens of somebody else's phone. And we don't know what it means to stop and smell the roses.

We derail conversations, or we don't start them in the first place. We jeopardise our own friendships for the sake of looking at our phones instead of peoples' faces. We know how to achieve a moment of satisfaction, but not a lifetime of happiness.

We're getting distracted by the click-bait version of life, and we're forgetting what's really important - relationships, job satisfaction, resilience and fulfilment - all of which can't be achieved in an instant.

Getting together with friends now usually looks something like this. Picture: iStock
Getting together with friends now usually looks something like this. Picture: iStock

We can do everything on our phone, except what matters most. But we're addicted to our phones! So we're forgetting what matters most.

In-person human interaction is falling by the wayside. Psychologist Dr Jean Twenge has done research which shows that my generation is less likely to spend time with friends, and more likely to spend time alone, at home, using technology. "Free time" suddenly looks a lot like "screen time".

We aren't committing to our long-term happiness because we're preoccupied with short-term indulgences. Dr Twenge's research shows we're falling behind in some of the basic measures of mental health, happiness and self-dependence.

"Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It's not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades," she wrote in The Atlantic.

Dr Twenge thinks smartphones and the internet are partly to blame. And so did Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, both of whom limited their own children's screen time.

Technology isn't necessarily bad. Addiction is bad. All addictions distract us from what's important. And unfortunately, almost everyone I know is addicted to their smartphone, including me. I actually congratulate myself for going just one day without using it.

We judge people for being addicted to things like smoking, drugs and alcohol. But smartphone and social media addiction isn't even on our radar. We shrug it off like it's nothing. It's the addiction everyone has, but no one really cares about.

Millennials actually know the toxic effects of social media on our mental health. And we like the idea of reducing our screen time. But we just can't force ourselves to change.

Most smokers know smoking is bad for their health, but they keep doing it. Smartphone addiction is no different. I once convinced a friend that she'd feel better if she deleted her Instagram account. She agreed with me, but didn't delete it.

Millennials reading this, even those who agree, won't do anything to change. Smartphone addiction is the new normal. We know it's won, and we don't care.