Finding Happiness in Changing Times: A Guide for Generation Z
Every generation faces a new set of challenges and needs to carve out its own path forward. For Millennials, it is no different, but the changes for Generation Z are unique.
Social media is fracturing every aspect of our lives, even at the highest levels of politics, and people are more confused and polarized than ever. What’s it like to grow up in today’s world? How can people be expected to cope?
Larry Sharpe has Answers
Larry Sharpe, professional consultant, trainer, and a recent candidate for governor in New York, has some interesting ideas that may help. Like many adults today, Larry’s childhood centered around the classroom and playground. His experiences taught him that people need to feel respected in order to feel satisfied, but more than just respect, they need to be loved and have a purpose in life to find real satisfaction and happiness. That was hard enough in the 20th century when all that kids had to deal with was the culture at school, and adults (mostly) dealt with family, work, and a tight-knit group of friends.
Today, our societal organization is much more complex. We switch jobs faster, routinely collaborate with coworkers on different continents, we are more mobile and end up thousands of miles away from family, and for many of us it is hard to hang on to friends for more than a few years. What changed?
The Social Media Revolution
Social media has radically transformed how people connect. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and dozens of other platforms have opened new portals to information and communication. As the different platforms have evolved it has gotten easier to connect with people over vast differences, and the traditional boundaries of time and space have evaporated. While this has been incredibly freeing it has also unleashed a flood of chaos.
Children and adults who use smartphones, the Internet, and social media can ignore boundaries like cities, time zones, countries, cultures, and even language barriers that stopped all but the most determined people in decades past.
But the increased freedom comes at a high cost. The amount of information coming at people today is impossible to assimilate, and it is up to the individual
How can kids be happy and find their way through such a difficult environment?
The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
Larry Sharpe suggests we look to the foundations of happiness to help us navigate today’s world. The root of happiness is three things: You need to feel respected, loved, and have some kind of purpose. If you have those three things you tend to be happy, but the problem is that you have to maintain them. It’s like what the Red Queen said to Alice in Through the Looking Glass (by Lewis Carroll). You have to run as fast as you can just to say in one place. If you want to get happy and stay happy, it takes a lot of work, but that work can and should be fun.
Respect, love, and purpose in life are found through your family and community, and it is harder than ever to find them in today’s landscape. According to Larry, several things make that tough:
Urbanization has separated families from each other. People move away to a city and lose their family connections. This process has been going on for a long time, but it is speeding up and the impact is bigger than ever. The fracturing of media started with cable TV in the 1970’s, and it got faster with the Internet in the 1990’s and Smartphones and the Social Media Revolution in the 2000’s.
The community where you find respect, purpose, and love isn’t at your job or your neighborhood any more. Families are getting smaller, the divorce rate is up, and people are delaying marriage and frequently choose not to marry, so it’s harder to find the love and support you need from family, too.
People are turning to virtual spaces to fulfill their needs more often. Online gaming communities like Fortnight, Mario Kart, and Red Dead Redemption offer the chance to make new friends and earn their respect. Sony realized this and in 2013, created a promotional campaign so powerful it still resonates and remains relevant.
YouTube, Instagram, and other streaming services have made it easier to interact with media personalities in ways that make you feel like they are your friends and family.
The problem is that many of these solutions are just illusions. You feel like you have purpose, and community. You get badges or other signs of social credit, but your personal life is burning down behind you. You can fall through the cracks and nobody will notice.
How can we find happiness in such a crazy mess? Watch the interview with Larry Sharpe to learn more.