Burn out Generation

Burn out Generation

There was recently a buzz about an article written by Anne Helen Petersen of Buzzfeed News,

talking about How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation.


Petersen went in-depth about how burnout isn’t just a phenomenon, but in fact a chronic disease. Burnout was first recognized as a psychological diagnosis in 1974, applied by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger to cases of physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. Burnout is of a substantively different category than exhaustion, although it’s related. Exhaustion means going to the point where you can’t go any further; burnout means reaching that point and pushing yourself to keep going, whether for days or weeks or years.


What contributes to millennial burnout in this day and age? Peterson touches on a few key things – the false prognosis that our parents reared us for financial stability, the internalization of needing to work all the time in order to succeed, online branding, and the media’s depiction of optimization of personal space.


All these things (and more) contribute to burnout as a permanent residence, a type of neverending motion that millennials fine-tune themselves to be normalized within. Burnout differs in its intensity and prevalence: it isn’t an affliction experienced by relatively few that evidences the darker qualities but, increasingly, and particularly among millennials, the contemporary condition.


Being overworked with no financial security has become more and more of a norm in today’s world, and Petersen even taps on the subject of using self-optimization as a means of doing more work.


We’re killing antiques, opting instead for fast furniture not because we hate our grandparents old items, but because we’re chasing stable employment across the country, and lugging old furniture and fragile china costs money we don’t have. We move too much, we have less room, we don’t care nearly as much about furniture in part because the furniture we do buy is so shitty.


Not only that, but the way that millennials live is largely due to their lack of financial security. Statistics show that two-thirds of millennials are renters, and in those rentals, they’re more likely to live with roommates than alone. When we do have money, we spend it on vacations, pay off debt, or save it – only 16% report spending excess funds on home improvement/ decorating.


Petersen talks further about the medias depiction of personal space, stating that the end result of [the media telling us that our personal space should be optimized just as much as one’s self and career] isn’t just fatigue, but enveloping burnout that follows us to home and back.


Take the new Netflix sensation, for example. Tidying Up With Marie Kondo taught us that decluttering takes messes — both metaphorically and figuratively and uses it as a form of liberation. Kondo’s motto? Keep only those items that spark joy.


That phrase plays a different role than it would’ve with the Baby Boomer generation, who were all raised with mindsets of having furniture that was made to last through the years. Sturdy furniture in matching sets represented stability, an entity that could be used in a home and passed down through generations for years to come.


Times have changed, however, and now millennials lean more towards temporary furniture. A means of making do for now, until it becomes the right stage in life and the money that’s meant to be splurged on the furniture is a feasible option.


Younger people mark adulthood with the purchase of an expensive piece and the accumulation of more durable items, if not necessarily more expensive, that better represent their individual taste.


Social media plays a big part in this as well, with influencers using platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to depict their seemingly perfect lives impeccable apartment, wanderlust travels, delicious food, and millennials who are doused with burnout watching enviously. I find that millennials are far less jealous of objects or belongings on social media than the holistic experiences represented there, the sort of thing that prompts people to comment, I want your life.


It’s a mix of wanting to prove yourself both through online branding and in person, craving experiences and physical things, and trying to express a sense of individuality through the little means that one has on hand.