After spending 10 hours at work, you head home for the day. You are sitting down for dinner when your phone dings. It’s an email from work requesting an additional project from you. Tonight you planned to deep-clean your apartment, but it’ll have to wait...again. This is not an unusual pattern. In fact, this kind of thing happens most days. You feel as though you’re at the end of your rope, overwhelmed and devoid of any more energy or effort to expend. You’re being pulled from too many sides, and exhaustion isn’t an abstract term to you anymore. Your stress has gone on for so long now without relief that it has developed into a condition called ‘burnout.’ The World Health Organization terms it “a job-related medical syndrome, defined as ‘chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’”
Publications such as Buzzfeed have labeled millennials the ‘burnout generation.’ However, I didn’t come across statistics indicating that millennials work any harder than other generations, so why haven’t baby boomers been termed the burnout generation? My guess is technology. Baby boomers didn’t grow up in a time of cell phones or internet like millennials did. In the 80’s and 90’s, work usually stayed at work, but today work can and will invade the home through your computer or phone via email and other communication applications. Your mind doesn’t get the relief of shutting down for the evenings because your technology is constantly buzzing and chirping in your ear, demanding you to work harder than your peers.
The line between professional and personal life is getting blurrier by the minute. Many bosses and coworkers share their personal phone numbers with one another, getting in contact outside of business hours to discuss work. This makes it near impossible for someone to stay relaxed at home if they can even relax their mind in the first place.
This disruption of technology often seeps into personal life in addition to professional life through social media. Boyanton adds, “...we’re constantly comparing ourselves to each other on social media. A perpetual stream of posts about achievements in life, love, and friendship are what we absorb as we click through apps.” Not only is technology allowing work to permeate our home life, but it’s also plunking us into a fish bowl for family, friends, and strangers to critique and review.
Of course millennials are burnt out. No part of their life, whether professional or personal, can live up to the person sitting in the chair next to them. An intricate knowledge of photography and the skillful fabrication of semi-interesting events seems to be the average resume requirement today. Oh, you haven’t been swimming with piranhas in Fiji? That’s a shame.
I’d argue there’s an upside to the social media epidemic, though. With social media as their megaphones, millennials have been able to spread pertinent information about their symptoms and mental states to others experiencing similar emotions. Baby boomers no doubt felt run down from time to time, but nobody was able to discuss it at a national or global level.
This begs the question: Is social media the millennial generation’s downfall or greatest asset? Like many issues, I think it’s an imperfect blend of both. Social media is a relatively new concept, so it’s natural to see a rise in conflicts before the users and developers are able to find a helpful balance. Burnout is the dissolution of separation between personal and professional life, and until we rectify this issue, we are going to keep seeing people suffer from this phenomenon.