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Online Security: The Growing Concern for Digital Self-Worth

online security and millennials

I used to work the social circuit a bit for PR and marketing when I lived in Chicago. Several times I would attend events and meet people that I would only know from online engagement. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be introduced as “@ciaraungar” or for someone to introduce his or herself to me as “@_______”. At first I thought it was weird, but soon got used to it and jumped on the bandwagon. Geeking out like this for sure exists only in certain settings and crowds, but it points to another, more important, subject matter that many –if not most– Millennials can resonate with.

Deemed as the first generation to grow up with computers, Millennials have never known a time of disconnection. With the advancement of technology, staying connected to people has never been easier. We’ve all felt the impact and pressure of having to answer phone calls, text messages, posts, tweets, etc. almost instantaneously. And if we don’t, well… clearly we’re pissed about something, being sketchy, or ignoring you. And that feeling goes both ways – if we post, tweet or text we expect response. What happens psychologically, though, when we don’t get one?

When I crowdsourced for topics to write on, I was surprised at the number of people that suggested I touch on how frequently they delete posts and tweets that didn’t get the response they were hoping for. I suppose I have done this a time or two when I’ve gone back at a later time and realized how dumb a post or picture looked. It was concerning to hear, though, that it was quite common and frequent amongst both friends and faux. It’s one thing for businesses to delete offensive or inappropriate posts to protect a brand and maintain its trust factor. It’s an entirely different matter when we take this action for our personal brand.

Our personal brand has become more than how others perceive us. It’s become our identity and affects how we perceive ourselves. Introducing one’s self as “@ciaraungar” is just one aspect of this. Our perception of popularity or how others view us is another. Van den Bergh was on-point when he said, “Millennials are pre-wired to achieve and create success stories in their lives. They would rather blow up some stories or pretend they are having fun on Instagram and Facebook than admit they had a boring night out to their friends and immediate social circle.”

At first thought – sure, we delete unpopular posts to protect our personal brand. If you’re trying to build an influential profile, you want to consider the Law of Few and display content that gains attention. However, that’s an entirely different set of narcissistic traits to be addressed in another post. The larger implication, here, is that we want to feel popular and the response we generate from our posts is –in our minds– a direct measurement of that popularity. We place our personal value on how many likes or retweets we get, and if we don’t hit our ideal number, we delete it to look better. Several questions, then, come to mind.

What is the potential impact of the plague of digital self-worth? There’s no doubt consistent low response rates can negatively impact your confidence, self-esteem and anxiety levels, and in turn your relationships, life, social life and state of mind. Depression can set it and your academic/professional performance can suffer. It’s possible this is an extremist point of view, but it’s a potential reality to be considered. Depression effects more than 120 million people worldwide with a large amount associated with low self-esteem and anxiety. With most Millennials owning a mobile device (at the very least), it’s nearly impossible to escape the potential impact of low self-esteem and anxiety caused by low social activity.

How can we overcome the obsession before it’s too late? Extremist views aside, there’s no question that there has been a psychological impact on the way we think and feel about ourselves due to the adoption of technology. It’s hard to tell what impact this will have over time, but taking control of your self-worth can have a profound impact on your life today. “How can I do this,” you ask?

  • Stop putting your self-worth in the hands of virtual reality. – Easier said than done, since most of this activity occurs subconsciously. It’s not practical to think you can limit the number of hours you are connected, although I’m sure we could all find a little room to give. Instead, start placing your self-worth in other things. What type of person do you want to be? How do you want to be remembered after this life? If you can pin-point those objectives, you can turn them into your focus. Find your self-value in your dedication toward those goals.
  • Exercise. – As Elle Woods would say,” Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands – they just don’t.” While these may be the words of a fictional “dumb blonde,” they do have some validity. Endorphins do, in fact, act as natural stress relievers and create a “high” achieved with prolonged workouts. When I moved to a new city where I knew no one and was in a transitional period job-wise, staying physically active saved my life. Had it not been for forcing myself to take up rock climbing and staying active in new, challenging ways, I’m confident I would have fallen into a slump. Maintaining a disciplined workout schedule does more than tone your body – it tones your mind and soul. Once a week is not going to cut it, so set aside 30 minutes every other day (at least) to jog on the treadmill (or outside) and to do a few planks.
  • Change your reality. – Hang out with real people. There is no such excuse as, “I don’t have friends.” Every city has meetups of some type for all types. Surrounding yourself with new experiences and new people will have a positive impact on your life “high.”

Have an anti-rumination strategy. – Opposite of Elle Woods, we find guidance in Shakespeare. “Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so.” In other words, the way we think about things is how we will perceive them. Altering the way you think about things will have a tremendous impact on your ability to stay positive when you’ve only received three “likes” on yesterday’s Facebook post. Don’t over think situations like this – have a plan for altering your reaction. Some find comfort in a phrase, distraction, exercise, music, or just being around other people. In any case, find an activity that produces positive emotions for you and have a battle plan.



3 Responses

  1. Being from the baby boom and not necessarily high tech this article confirms what I see on a daily basis. We used to hand write our letters and debate issues fface to face. Depression was usually the result of real life dealing a bad card and everyone exercised. Put the gadgets down and LOOK UP. Thanks for the in depth article @cungar.

  2. Thank you for another perspective on the issue! It’s definitely a generational difference that has consequences. I think what most Millennials struggle with is our true inability to actually “put the gadgets down and look up.” In today’s professional world, we are expected to be connected 100% of the time and anything less can demonstrate incompetence. It’s a perpetuating cycle that is hard for us to break free from. Sure, we would like to have some down time and disconnect, but we are required to stay connected for the job. Consequently, it has conditioned us to stay connected in other ways resulting in the very thing this article discusses.

    Thanks, again, for the new perspective!

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