A major new survey of nearly 16,000 young adults aged 18 to 35 years old living in 25 countries around the world turned up numerous positive trends but it revealed some genuinely worrisome news as well.
The survey — entitled “The Connected Generation” — was conducted collaboratively by World Vision, the Washington-based “global Christian humanitarian organization” for sponsoring a child, and The Barna Group, the California-based demographic research firm, and was released last month.
The genuinely worrisome news coming out of the survey is the extraordinarily low number of respondents who “often feel deeply cared-for by those around me” (33 percent) and who “often feel someone believes in me” (32 percent).
And that’s not all. Twenty-eight percent reported being “sad or depressed,” 23 percent “lonely and isolated from others,” and 21 percent “afraid of violence.” In other words, anywhere from one-fifth to two-thirds of the survey respondents face huge emotional challenges.
“When respondents had an opportunity to provide a portrait of their emotions, the image is one of a generation gripped by worry,” Barna said of the survey results.
“Anxiety about important decisions is widespread (40%), as well as uncertainty about the future (40%), a fear of failure (40%) and a pressure to be successful (36%).”
And why should anybody working on Capitol Hill care about these survey data, other than out of a general sense of interest and perhaps concern?
Well, the survey wasn’t titled “The Connected Generation” by accident. And the age group surveyed accounts for the majority of congressional staffers, so odds are these are not unfamiliar problems on Capitol Hill.
This latest survey is focused specifically on the generation growing up almost entirely in a digital world. Plus, the World Vision/Barna Group survey also tracks closely with a couple previously reported here on HillFaith. Something is happening, particularly in Western society, to which we do well to pay particular attention.
Is social media the problem? Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame, one of the original and most successful bloggers (and a University of Tennessee law professor, book author and USA Today columnist to boot), recently published a monograph-length book — The Social Media Upheaval — that makes a highly persuasive case that social media is indeed having widespread ill societal and related effects, based upon multiple academic and other sources.
Chief among those ill effects are the encouragement of a sense of isolation amid a supposed wealth of “Likes” and “Friends” and “Followers.”
Fear of a lack of acceptance and connectedness among peers has always been a problem in adolescence, of course, but the evidence increasingly suggests that social media both heightens it among young folks and extends it into older age groups as well.