The Medium Vs. The Message: Why Gen-Y Is Using Social Media All Wrong

by Brittany Whiting

Generation-Y is widely known and widely examined for its narcissism, innovation and diversity. Many Baby Boomers would argue that this privileged and highly educated group of individuals should have no problem pursuing their goals and establishing their future careers.

But, take your time to talk to any recent college graduate and he or she will tell you this: Starting a profession is proving to be a lot f*cking harder than what he or she expected it to be.

Flooded job markets, an abundance of undergraduate degrees and a general knowledge of competitiveness leaves today's young generation with big questions and an even bigger lack of answers.

Many recent graduates are fully equipped with degrees, yet no prospective jobs, while others lack the imagination and guts to jump into today's competitive market with an unfamiliar lack of bearings.

For whatever reason, it is clear that Generation-Y, more than any other generation beforehand, is one filled with self-doubt and inertness when it comes time to embark on a career.

Among various trends that contribute to this phenomenon of hesitation, social media presents itself as one of the biggest culprits.

After all, social media has become a platform on which individuals pit themselves against each other in order to gain some degree of worthiness or appreciation.

What was once a means for connection has now become a guide to self-worth; today's young generation has created a very literal and very vast network of competition, one that can often be frightfully intimidating and discouraging.

Instead of focusing on one’s own strengths, accomplishments and goals, individuals now focus on the lives of others — usually on an hourly or daily basis. Such an extroverted way of living must have significant effects on those attempting to find personal success.

Maybe it's time to log off Instagram and read a book, or start your network on LinkedIn. Without further ado, here are three ways social media contributes to the apathy and inertness engulfing Generation-Y:

1. Vastness

It's not such a small world after all. Social media platforms have become a means for us to literally observe and measure just how large our global network really is.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have revolutionized how we examine our society and materialize the concept of "globalization" into one that can be easily accessed.

Have you ever gotten lost in the "black hole" of social networking? First you click on a link, then a hashtag catches your eye and then, before you know it, you've gone through 20 profiles of people who live on all corners of the globe.

Never before has a generation been so conscious of the vast nature of the world that surrounds it.

From the viewpoint of social connection, this is a positive advancement; social platforms allow individuals who live in multiple locations to connect more easily and quickly than ever before.

For a generation trying to establish itself in a cutthroat career market, however, this trait can have insidious psychological effects.

The vastness to which social media exposes its users can muster a feeling of hopeless insignificance in a world already full of creativity and success.

What's more is that it has the ability to overwhelm individuals with the sheer amount of career choices that they could make, almost to a paralyzing effect. Talk about pressure.

To digress, self-motivation and determination are the obvious qualities required to succeed in any career path, but being acutely aware of the vast world in which we live is a trait that can breed insecurity in many struggling young adults today.

2. Procrastination

A 2010 Pew study found that among college graduates in America, 78 percent had Facebook profiles while only 19 percent had accounts on LinkedIn.

This statistic speaks for itself and for the procrastination that social networking sites breed in today’s young adults. Have a paper due?

Should you be updating your résumé or networking for a potential job? Why not go on Facebook and watch a funny cat video instead?

Social platforms have become an integral part of Generation-Y; opening up your browser and typing www.f-a-c-e has become second nature.

After all, if you're suffering from writers block or a moment of self-doubt, what else is there to do but hop on Instagram and dull your troubles away?

Sites like Facebook have become a main contributor to the general apathy and inertness of our generation; individuals procrastinate on these platforms so much that they would rather procrastinate more to avoid all the problems that the initial procrastination caused.

3. A Void Of Organic Creativity

Sites like Pinterest and Twitter perpetuate the idea that using and collecting the ideas of others as your own is normal and trendy.

Didn't anyone learn about plagiarization in school? Of course, two minds are better than one and collaboration sews the seeds of creativity, but these platforms are not systems of involvement. Rather, they are systems of imitation.

Pinterest is literally a site where you collect other people's ideas onto a board that is somehow supposed to represent who you are as an individual.

Maybe I’m being overly critical here — I, too, enjoy Pinterest and exploring the unique information that it assembles —, but something feels off about representing yourself through the voice of others.

Instead of fostering our own creative thoughts and opinions, our generation regurgitates the sentiments and attitudes of others.

We retweet, repost and pin our own ingenuity away, allowing ourselves to become drones who accept whatever is easy and handy above what takes work and unique thought.

Outside of the cyber world, these attributes have real-life consequences. A large majority of Generation-Y has become indifferent and apathetic.

They are too lazy to mobilize the imagination required to launch their potential careers.

If one is constantly focusing on what others think, how can he or she create the thoughts that will define his or her own unique lives?

Today, many Millennials would rather be handed a career than strive to find or create one that reflects their own distinct interests.

Maybe it's time we do away with another critique of our generation, the one that claims that we whine too much.

If we concentrate on individual creativity and determination, social networking sites can provide us with the educational and networking tools that will allow our future endeavors to thrive.

Rather than just imitating, procrastinating or cowering, Generation-Y must realize that social media platforms enable us to network, research and engage in conversations that affect our potential career paths.

We must act like the young, current adults we are and "get with the times." It is up to us to combine the benefits of social media with our own dedication in order to derive the most out of our prospective careers and, ultimately, our lives.