Opinion: Millennials, Safe Spaces And Future Addicts

Opinion: Millennials, Safe Spaces And Future Addicts

By David H. Williams 04/27/17

Millennials may be more susceptible to the “relief” that comes from substances when they encounter a hostile outside world without safe spaces.

Image: 
David Williams

For many baby boomers like myself, the millennial generation—born between 1982 and 2004—are a mystery. With their more egregious demands for “safe spaces” and need for one-sided debates on sensitive topics, this generation of “snowflakes” (as they are sometimes derogatively called) elicit pity, irritation, and often scorn from my generation.

The more nuanced commentary so far has focused on the potential inability of this generation to function effectively in the “outside world,” without having been exposed to the wide variety of opinions, and indeed the nastiness, that comes with everyday unfiltered society. While the temptation to subscribe to these negative viewpoints is strong, I now think they are too harsh, particularly when considering how this millennial mindset may translate to substance abuse and addiction down the road.

What has been missing from the analysis of the millennials’ has been deep insight into the impact of social media and the mental stress it generates, and in turn its long-term ramifications. In my generation, even if you were socially inept or unpopular, its impact was limited to school hours or the occasional after-hours event.

Even after a brutal several hours in the classroom hallways, you could go home and be confident that no one was going to follow—allowing you to regroup and enjoy the rest of your day free of the scorn of your fellow students. With social media that is no longer possible—scorn, humiliation, or even just the need to “perform” socially now follow our youth 24 x 7. 

Thus, it is understandable that when this first social media generation goes to college or university, the combination of (presumably) increased academic challenges, the ever-nearing prospect of a hostile work world, and a social life that packed what used to be decades of hostility into a few short years will drive some of them to seek out these safe spaces—free not only from very contrary opinions but from any negativity at all.

While I still disagree with how many go about defining “safe,” I now understand the need for it. However, their potential inability to function without such spaces goes way beyond having a “nice” college experience—it goes to a likely increased turn to drugs or alcohol in the future without having learned coping mechanisms at this younger age.

There are many reasons for substance abuse, but in my experience a very common one for adult addicts is their inability to deal with life’s pressures—also known as triggers—without drugs or alcohol. It is not a stretch to think that this younger generation will be more susceptible to the “relief” that comes with those substances when they encounter a hostile outside world without their beloved safe spaces. And unless they withdraw from social media altogether (a worthy tactic, if unrealistic for many), life’s pressures that already seemed intense and around-the-clock will just get worse when they have to get a “real-life,” with mind-altering fixes becoming increasingly attractive.

I believe the discussion should start shifting from the short-term condemnation of Millennials’ need for like-mindedness to their longer-term prospect for increased substance abuse and addiction without such safety nets. Otherwise we’ll be facing a much bigger problem than melting snowflakes.

David H. Williams is Author of How To Conquer Your Alcoholism, and developer of The Conquer Program, an alcoholism treatment approach based on identifying and building defenses against drinking triggers. A new version of his book will be available in May on Amazon (for more details visit www.ConquerYourAddiction.com).

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Disqus comments
David H. Williams.jpeg

David H. Williams is Author of How To Conquer Your Alcoholism, and developer of The Conquer Program, an alcoholism treatment approach based on identifying and building defenses against drinking triggers. You can find David on Twitter and Linkedin.

Disqus comments