America Has Always Bred Obsession: Why Our Addiction To Social Media Isn't Shocking At All

by Dan Scotti

Young people’s obsession with social media should come as no surprise, and their “addiction” to it? Well, that’s even less shocking. At least for me it is, but then again, maybe I’m just another ignorant member of Generation-Y. Americans are addicts by their nature.

Hey man, if you want to call me another “social media-addicted” member of the Millennial generation, go for it, but I blame Mark Zuckerberg. I point the finger at Evan Williams, Noah Glass, Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, Kevin Systrom and Mike Kreiger too, for that matter -- among others -- for all creating platforms that were designed to be tools for “world connectivity.”

These same tools have since been distorted and abused for reasons entirely different. Attention, insecurity and the constant search for reinforcement through public approval (also known as “likes”), are the driving forces behind this distortion -- and these things certainly aren’t specific to one generation.

It’s just that Millennials in America were given the luxury of growing up in an environment with social media at the ready for them, to project these issues and to compensate for them, through different platforms of social media.

I take a look back to the perfect, flawless and, more or less, invulnerable generation of my grandparents. The Greatest Generation. The generation held so high on the pedestal of the public eye that we barely even take the time to reflect on some of their less-than-great aspects. I get it, our grandparents may be cute, sitting around knitting and watching baseball games, but they certainly were not perfect.

As much as you may want to thrust the hostility of your midlife crisis in the direction of younger people, I promise you, all 93-year-olds aren’t jumping out of airplanes in commemoration of D-Day, although you may like to hold them to that standard.

Remember Prohibition? Yeah, that happened. Forget Millennials abusing social media “too much” -- our grandparents, and their parents before them, had alcohol banned from them -- because they drank “a little too much.” That’s abuse. See, alcohol and social media are both great concepts... in moderation.

A glass of wine with dinner is far different from tossing back tequila shots until you pass out, after a stressful day at work. In the same light, a person who uses Facebook to contact relatives in Honduras is far different from someone whose life revolves around Facebook notifications.

It’s not social media or alcohol, by themselves, which present the problem, it’s a lack of self-control. This lack of self-control quickly turns things of interest into things of obsession.

So what now? Bashing “Millennials” for being addicted to social media isn’t cutting off the head of the snake. I spent five months in Florence, Italy, while studying abroad and personally lived through the differences in lifestyle. It appeared that “17 - 28-year-olds” in Italy, and seemingly all of Europe, just aren’t attached to social media in the way that we, American Millennials, are.

Sure, if they see something cool, they may tweet it. Having said that, you can rest assured knowing they aren’t Instagramming their salads with a fraction of the frequency of American Millennials. In the same light, in Europe, where the drinking age is as low as 16 in some places -- binge drinking isn’t as much of a danger as it is here, especially among young adults in the college setting.

Social media, among American Millennials, isn’t the issue, at all. It is, however, part of a bigger issue that Americans -- regardless of age -- have faced over the course of the past century: extremism. Extremism surely isn’t age-specific, and it surely isn’t just displayed every time their phone vibrates from a Facebook notification.

There’s an old saying, “You shouldn't cast stones if you live in a glass house.” Next time you look to generalize an entire generation by its collective cell phone bill, remember this: America is one big glass house that we’re all living in together.

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