Simon Sinek claims there are four factors contributing to a disturbing trend in statistics where the millennial generation is experiencing plummeting self-esteem, increases in addictive behaviour, depression, suicide and death due to drug overdoses. The first being failed parenting strategies which was discussed in Millennial Paradox - Part I - Helping Hand or Holding Back?
According to Simon Sinek the second reason for why you might be challenged when working with someone from the millennial generation is “technology”.
For starters I am prefacing this blog with the fact that I am Gen X and in terms of being social media savvy I am lagging behind in practice and also desire to fully embrace (and keep up with) social media in all its forms. Therefore I probably have some unconscious negative bias towards the ability to build relationships with people over social media.
Before I lose everyone under 33 right here ….. I challenge you to keep reading.
Notwithstanding this admission, great care has been taken in asking objective questions with the view to generating constructive conversation about creating a balanced view on the topic. Statistics don’t lie and the health and well being of this generation and future ones is a most important subject that should be a concern to everyone.
Sinek proposes that having someone “like” you on Facebook makes you feel good as a result of the release of a chemical called dopamine. He goes on to inform us that dopamine is the same chemical that gets released as a result of smoking, drinking or gambling and is both highly addictive and numbing this drawing conclusion that Facebook can be addictive.
Observations of my own behaviours actually support this. As recently as 2016 I broke through my fear of social media and have found that it is a great tool for keeping up with what my children are doing, finding out about events, learning (case in point the interview which is the subject of this series of posts) and even promoting business. On the other hand though, it is VERY addictive and time wasting as the little red indicator flashes at me on my iphone just taunting me to see who has friended me, commented or sent me a message!! It’s hard not to sneak a look and check the latest activity and this is someone who is generally very disciplined about leaving phones out of meetings, not taking calls when I am with other people and turning my phone off when I am on holidays!
Just because you have “friended” someone of Facebook does it mean you are actually friends?
You might have some insights into their likes and dislikes, their favourite places to eat and the causes they support through “watching” or “following” them on Facebook, BUT does that mean you could successfully spend the day together and feel great about it?
I am not talking about the people you already knew before you friended them on Facebook I am talking about the potentially thousands of people that come into your world as a result of the tentacles of social media.
Before we get into it lets define relationship. According to the Oxford dictionary Relationship is “The way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected”. Therefore, in the context of Facebook and being connected, tick, you now have a relationship but is this really supporting you when you most need it?
You can develop relationships with your partner, your work colleagues, your boss, your family and your neighbours. Some of these you would consider friends and others you may only know as a casual acquaintance like a friend of a friend. There are so many levels of relationship and at each level there exists a different intensity of trust and love. Some people you would trust your deepest, darkest secrets to and others you would only give a cursory nod of recognition to as you pass them in the corridor.
Take a moment to consider who you consider you have the most trusted relationships with. They are usually the ones who have been around the longest and have seen and supported you through your highlights and low points and demonstrated their loyalty and trust. These are the ones that you have been in the trenches with and have shared some common experiences over time. The ones who have hugged you when you were crying, who were there in person to share the energy of the award you received, who turned up to support you in your deepest darkest hour.
Building long term, deep and lasting relationships take time.
It is a process of getting to know someone, spending time in physical space to exchange energy and if you can count more than 5 in this category you are doing well.
In his book Design a Decade: Tidy up your past, Enjoy today, Set up your future, Chris Freeman talks about the seven levels of relationship. Those in the crowd, acquaintances that you have irregular contact with, associates with regular contact, family and friends that give you energy, close trusted relationships, your partner and your Self.
In terms of Facebook friends how many are just really in the crowd and how many could you count on to give you productive support when you need it most
Just one example of this is a story that a friend told me a story about her relatives birthday who chose to organise her birthday party on Facebook. She invited all of her “friends”, about 30 people in total and in the heat of the moment when she posted the invitation most people reacted by saying they were going to her event. They even talked about what to wear and how to get to the venue which was a local restaurant.
On the night of the party everything was set, they had the cake and were ready for a great night of celebration. As the night went on it was clear that most people were not going to turn up. She ended up with 5 people there including her parents, a long term friend and aunt and uncle. The other point was that many of her relatives were not on Facebook so hadn't even received an invite
When I heard this I wondered what had gone wrong and what it taught me about the “short term” nature of FB. It taught me that people reacted in the moment in excitement of being asked (dopamine levels high) without actually considering the invitation or then following up to put it in their calendar. The niece was equally as pumped with dopamine when she saw that everyone had accepted. You can imagine her disappointment though when no one actually showed up (a bit like coming down off the high of an addictive drug).
Social media is a great tool and could be a great STARTING point for developing long term meaningful relationships.
You could meet someone on social media and then develop the relationship through a phone call or meeting then in person at some stage. The trouble with social media is that messages can be misconstrued and misinterpreted (this goes for emails as well).
Communication 101 tell us that only a small percentage of communicating is done verbally (written), the rest is sent via facial expression, tone of voice and body language. Not easy to get in context from a snapshot or a comment on Facebook or Instagram.
With the enhancements to Facebook such as FB live we have a better chance of really finding out about a person because we can at least see them and hear their tone of voice.
With the busyness of life it is so easy to lose contact with people and this is where Facebook is a great tool. It is great to keep up with family and friends when they don’t live around the corner. It is only part of the answer though.
Sinek’s point is that if the millennials (anyone really) are relying on social media alone to create relationships then they may not be in a position to form deep and meaningful ones.
Your iphone won’t hug you when you are feeling lonely and separated and when you most need it! This of course goes for everyone and I wonder if generally as a society we are losing the ability to discern between fruitful and fruitless superficial relationships.
Forming great relationships takes time and focused effort. That means making a conscious effort to talk to, spend time with, send a personal Facebook message and combinations of all three.
If you are finding yourself lacking in terms of quality relationships or you see the value in fostering and strengthening the ones you already have, spend a few moments and reflect on where your contacts sit in terms of the seven levels of relationship.
Jennylee Taylor is Life Coach and Breathwork Practitioner supporting and empowering you to be great managers of your world through reducing stress and overwhelm, and balancing life so you can enjoy loving relationships, contentment now and financial security in your future.
Jennylee coaches in the Design a Decade Life Management Program using a set of tools which support you to design and achieve your aspirations and goals for your next decade.
Jennylee also supports people to break through personal emotional and mindset barriers so you can be the best you in the world and achieve your goals.
Would you like more info? Feel free to contact me for a chat
My passions are nature, people, and building cultures of cooperation, harmony, sharing and reverence for life. I enjoy working with people to help them understand themselves and others so they can reach their full potential in life.