Two new surveys highlight findings that, if accurate and durable, provide some potentially distressing insights about millions of Americans born after 1980, the year Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States.
These findings should be of great interest in the nation’s capital because most of the people now working on Capitol Hill for individual senators or representatives, or for congressional committees, are members of either the Millennial Generation (people born between the years 1981-1996) or its successor generation, Gen Z. (those born in 1997 and forward).
The YouGov survey made public just as Congress began its August recess revealed that “Millennials report feeling lonely much more often than their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts.
“While 30 percent of Millennials say they always or often feel lonely, just one in five (20 percent) members of Generation X says the same. Even fewer Baby Boomers (15 percent) report feeling lonely with the same frequency,” YouGov’s Jamie Ballard said.
If that’s not surprising, or distressing, enough, the study also found “Millennials are also more likely than older generations to report that they have no acquaintances (25 percent of Millennials say this is the case), no friends (22 percent), no close friends (27 percent), and no best friends (30 percent),” she continued.
There is one piece of good news here, according to Ballard: “However, a majority (70 percent) of Millennials do report that they have at least one best friend. Nearly half (49 percent) say that they have between one and four “close friends.”
“While 30 percent of Millennials say they always or often feel lonely, just one in five (20 percent) members of Generation X says the same.”
The Gen Z survey was conducted by Morning Consult and, among much else, it found that only 39 percent of those interviewed put spirituality among the values that are most important to them.
Other values and their percentages included: transparency (41 percent), care for those more needy than yourself (56 percent), authenticity (60 percent), rational thinking (61 percent), open-mindedness (67 percent) and compassion (70 percent).
And the three most important values for Gen Z adults? Honesty (81 percent), Reliability (72 percent) and Commitment (71 percent), according to Morning Consult.
One thing Millennials and Gen Zers have in common is the experience of growing up in a digital world filled with social media. There is reason to believe social media is the culprit concerning Millennials.
The YouGov survey references a December 2018 study of 143 University of Pennsylvania undergraduates assigned either to use Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat no more than 10 minutes per day or to use them as normal.
“Our findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.”
“The limited use group showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group. Both groups showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out over baseline, suggesting a benefit of increased self-monitoring,” the study’s authors said.
“Our findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being,” the authors added.
That’s only one study, of course, so its application is likely highly limited, but what if it’s accurate? Is it possible that being defined by the world of your computer and smartphone screens day and night at home and the office contributes to social isolation, which in turn lessens the ability to communicate in ways that encourage compromise while promoting hyper-partisanship?
Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame, one of the original and most successful bloggers (and a University of Tennessee law professor to boot), recently published a tremendous monograph-length book — The Social Media Upheaval — that makes a highly persuasive case based upon multiple academic and other sources that social media is indeed having widespread ill societal effects.
Presumably, such effects would show up first and most noticeably among Millennials, who were the first generation to have, in Don Tapscott’s memorable words, grown up digitally.
As for the Gen Zers and their views on spirituality, the recent federal appeals court victory for Minnesota filmmakers Carl and Angel Larsen illustrates a political and judicial conflict that is getting steadily more intense.
To grasp fully the social, political and legal ramifications of that conflict, those working in positions of influence in places like Congress need an appreciation for the central role of spirituality in the lives of millions of their fellow Americans.
The Morning Consult survey results may suggest the Gen Zers have some living and learning to do in this regard.
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