11 Sep Why are millennials more lonely than previous generations?

Although we have many more gadgets for communicating, our present world of social media connections often leaves people feeling relationally empty. Why are millennials more lonely than previous generations?

The United States is no stranger to loneliness. Cigna, a global healthcare company, recently conducted an online survey of 20,000 American adults in an effort to study loneliness. The results of this survey revealed that most Americans are considered lonely.  In particular, Generation Z (ages 18-22) and millennials (ages 23-37), make up the loneliest group of individuals in our country. For adults, the younger you are, the lonelier you are.

This study revealed that students are lonelier than retirees, and there was no significant difference between men and women or races when it came to average scores for loneliness. The results are in—a college dorm room can be lonelier than a nursing home!

Young adulthood is often a lonely transition. In 2017, millennial internet users spent an average of 223 minutes per day on mobile devices, up from 188 daily minutes in 2016. Sitting in front of a screen doesn’t offer the same satisfaction and fulfillment that face to face contact can bring.  There’s something gratifying about hearing another’s tone of voice and experiencing touch, eye contact, laughter, and true relationship.  Social media gives a false sense of intimacy and belonging.

Another reason for this conundrum is the phase of life it represents.  Change is on the horizon. Adulting is going to be a reality. Decisions have to be made.  Many anticipate fulfillment in the college experience or that first “real job.” Often many young people move away from their families during this time.  Instead of having the security and familiarity of family and high school friends physically present, they are faced with “starting over” where no one really knows who you are. After all, sometimes you want to go “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came” (as we older folks sing along with the ‘Cheers’ theme song).

What can remedy the loneliness that millennials and others often experience?

First, get plugged into a church to start serving.

Connecting with others helps fuel that sense of purpose and identity, and serving in a church is a wonderful place to find such a connection. This can’t be accomplished by sitting on the sidelines and being an observer, but by being intentional to serve where needed. Love babies?  How about serving in the church nursery? Have a friendly disposition? Sign up to be a greeter. Enjoy music and singing?  Help serve on the worship team.  Use your gifts for the Lord.  “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).

Second, make spending time with godly friends a priority.

In my 20’s, I found connection with like-minded people and was able to meet others around my age, having Bible studies and Christian fellowship in my apartment. I also was a leader for Bible Study Fellowship and this further impacted and fueled my faith.  I was able to encourage other women of various ages and be encouraged by their faith and commitment to serving Christ. “As iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). The gift of a godly friend is a treasure. You can pray for one another, help bear each other’s burdens, and hold one another accountable. Don’t have a godly friend?  Pray for one! Keep your eyes peeled.  God will provide!

Finally, keep your focus on Christ.

When we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), we are reminded that life is not really about “us” anyway. It’s about sharing and living the gospel.  It’s about focusing on Christ and serving and loving others in His name. Instead of being “me” focused, we can focus on Jesus.

 

Rick Warren nailed it when he said, “As Christians we’re called to belong, not just to believe.  We are not meant to live lone-ranger lives; instead, we are to belong to Christ’s family and be members of his body.”

God didn’t intend for us to journey through this life alone.

“….let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Heb. 12:1-2, NIV)


Pam Field is a kindergarten teacher, a Licensed Professional Counselor, and a big fan of McDonald’s coffee.