Originally published on The Cusp https://thecusp.com.au/5-reasons-millennials-struggle-commitment/18003
Our generation seem to have certain tags we can’t escape from. Entitled and selfie obsessed on the one hand; tech-savvy, high achievers on the other. We can’t seem to catch a break.
According to the Pew research, millennials are less likely to be married in their 20s than previous generations, while Gallup found a whopping 64% of 18-29 year olds were single in 2014, having risen from 52% in 2004. The 30- 39 age group also saw a rise of singledom, growing from 15% to 19% over the same period.
So what is going on? Why are we struggling to commit?
Relationship counsellor Hailee Walker deals with a predominantly millennial demographic in her work, and suggests there are multiple issues at play.
#1 Choices, choices
“This generation is one that’s spoilt for choice,” says Hailee. “Too much choice is paralysing; the more options we have, the more we fear we’ll make the wrong decision.”
This “choice overload” idea was first discussed in detail by Stanford Psychologist Mark Lepper and Professor Sheena Iyengar back in 2000. In their research they founds shoppers were more likely to buy a jar of jam if presented with six choices. When presented with 24 types of jam, the shoppers experienced this decision paralysis that Hailee suggests hinders our commitment.
We aren’t just talking relationship commitment either. We’re talking in all aspects of life from careers to politics, where we just don’t seem to get attached to any one thing, idea or group.
Take for example the Walker Sands’ 2014 Future of Retail Study. It found 18- to 25-year-old consumers are 90% more likely than those 60 years old or older to have rented a product instead of bought one.
#2 Media messages
Our generation are “digital natives”, meaning we are the only generation that haven’t had to adapt to new technologies and not surprisingly, we are the biggest users of it; 81% of Millennials are on Facebook.
Through social media, live news and the streaming of shows, Hailee believes we literally have the world at our fingertips. “This is a generation that’s ‘overconnected’ where there’s 24/7 media coverage of world events like never before,” she says.
We are brought up on the Kardashians, celebrities falling off their pedestals and reality shows that all teach us that love is fleeting, fickle and more often than not surrounded in pain and disappointment.
“Millennials are continually bombarded with information that screams ‘there are endless options, why settle when you can simply move from one option to the next?’” Hailee believes.
“Take shows like the Bachelor, where potential love interests line up to compete for love. Each week one of the many options is easily dismissed, it’s no wonder the younger generation are rendered motionless when committing to just one option?”
Again, we come back to the idea of choice.
#3 The app equation
Love Coach Jessica Bartram believes both social media and dating apps have a lot to answer for when it comes to lack of commitment.
“With social media, we’re constantly bombarded with a ‘highlight reel’ of everyone’s life. We only observe the best of people and their relationships. In reality there are positive and negative feelings and situations, so we’re constantly dealing with inadequacy and insecurity,” she says.
Hailee agrees. “The #couplegoals leave us constantly questioning whether what we have is good enough or whether we’re settling. We forget that our Instagram and Facebook feeds are highly edited and filtered snapshots of life.”
Apps like Tinder also promote the idea of disposable ‘love’ and that endless quest to find the best. The limitless options you can dismiss or engage with just by a simple swipe mean true connection is rarely built. Should you go for Joe in Coogee when there’s a possibility James from Surry Hills could be even better?
Jessica makes an important point. “If you don’t have a clear idea of the love you want to attract, which many younger people don’t, you are bound to be impressed by every pretty face that pops up on screen,” she says.
#4 We have trust issues
What we experience through all the facets of technology, it’s no wonder that trust is a big issue for our generation.
One study found just 19% of Millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31% of Gen Xers. That’s a pretty sad statistic.
Hailee believes this can be attributed to two areas; the world we grow up in and our ‘overconnected disconnect.’
“In order to trust, we need to connect on a personal level,” says Hailee. “Previous generations had more face to face communication and didn’t depend on technology for that bond. Today’s generation are under the illusion of being connected but in reality they are more lonely and distant from meaningful human interactions.”
Another important issue to note is we’re children of the Baby Boomers, a generation that has the highest divorce rates.
#5 Living at home
Let’s admit it; we’re a generation that revel in the comforts of home and staying under our parent’s roof a lot longer than generations before us. Hailee believes this more sheltered way of living where we pay less or no rent, have dinner on the table and our washing done, means there’s no sense of urgency in overall decision making.
“There is a definite safety net provided by parents that allow millennials the luxury of exploring life choices more thoroughly before they commit to something,” Hailee comments.
Perhaps our parents also provide the security that generations before us looked for in a partner?
Whatever the reasons we fail at this commitment stuff, it’s safe to say we need to work on it. If we don’t get our shit together soon and understand the benefits of connection and commitment, before we know it, we’ll be a generation of #smashedavoforone