Viewing social media and entertainment are common pastimes among millennials. However, these activities often contribute to unhealthy lifestyles. Per a 2017 American Psychological Association publication titled Stress in America: Coping with Change, 63% of millennials “feel like [they] are attached to [their] phone or tablet,” compared to 47% of gen Xers and 26% of boomers.
Obsession with other people’s lives has been around since the conception of mass media, as popular figures were always given more attention than the common person. But what distinguishes today’s era from the past is effortless access to entertainment and social media, the swipe of a finger or the press of a button. The lack of regulation of this access gives way to procrastination, as students can idle incessantly on social media and television without reprehension.
Disembodiment of the self in media and entertainment is losing oneself as they consume others’ lives. College students often engage with media technology by following glamorous personalities and lifestyles on social media feeds and television programming. But when one becomes obsessed with these personalities, they are susceptible to modeling their behavior off them—for instance, their consumer behaviors. This inspires an externalized approach to identity-formation, which is difficult to replicate, as most millennials do not live like celebrities do and can harm one’s self-esteem.
Watching how other people live their lives through a screen can often provide pleasure and comfort. Social media can often endanger the well-being of individuals. Per a 2017 Journal of Affective Disorders study, time spent on social media correlates with “greater dispositional anxiety symptoms and an increased likelihood of having a probable anxiety disorder.” A 2016 Pew poll suggests that stress can also come from following today’s political strife through social media.
Spending too much time on social media and entertainment invariably hinders one from pursuing healthier activities: real-life socializing, physical exercise or participation in purposeful hobbies. Thus, the pursuit of a meaningful life in college starts with disconnecting from social media and entertainment and finding more productive ways of spending time that do not depend on others’ lives to bring happiness within oneself.