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Millennial Entrepreneurs: Coming of Age Interpersonal Duality

Just over a decade ago, the launch and subsequent evolution of social behemoths like MySpace and Facebook changed the way we communicate, access information, and view the role of business and purpose in society. Now that social media is past the early adoption phase and is fully integrated into every day society, we’re beginning to see a paradigm shift as these Millennials (myself included) come of age into full blown “adulthood” in the social age. I’m not sure if this concept has been discussed at length, or if it even has a name, but I will be referring to it henceforth as interpersonal duality.

A Brief Background

Before the birth of modern-day social media, it was assumed that only highly educated people had access to quality information. When it came to business, only those that fought their way up the corporate ladder could run, let alone create, successful ventures — especially large Fortune 500 entities. The only approved societal path for a fresh-faced college graduate was to put in sweat equity at a large corporation until they could retire with their 401k’s and whatever the corporation was willing to give them with their departure into the abyss.

The elite Millennials like Mark Zuckerberg and Tom Anderson changed that perception. They showed that you didn’t have to have a college education to make the world a better place, and even more so, you didn’t need an MBA to create a successful company. The sentiment of the time was simple: we didn’t like the way the world was telling us to behave, so we changed it. Coding, technology, bootstrapping, and start-ups carved a path where Millennial kids, burdened with impending college debt and a disenfranchised view of the way corporations suck away your soul, found a more efficient path. Don’t like the way something is done? Do it differently. Go your own way.

And it worked.

I mirrored that sentiment, even in college. I was unwilling to accept that I would have to put in 5 years of wasted effort as an assistant when I knew I had more to offer the world today. After skipping my way to be Head Producer at a large music tech startup, I watched it suck the life out of me and everyone in it. It was then that I realized I wanted no part of the traditional work journey. At 22, I started my own company with the sole purpose of fulfilling my passion. I’ve never looked back. Most of my peers, especially friends from college and high school, have also gone on to build successful businesses with the same philosophical construct. Every single one of them (us?) was unwilling to accept a societal standard of rules that our parents and elders dictated to us. Our time here is short, so why waste it being inefficient?

Because of this philosophy, it’s now the people in tech under 35 that are making rockstar money and living lavish lives. In the meantime, rockstars and celebrities are trying desperately to hang on to what’s left of their notoriety by flaunting drama just to stay relevant in an over-saturated, content-driven market (thanks, TMZ). The ability to be heard thanks to social media and technology is infinite, yet the mountain to become (and stay) someone with true influence on the masses is now nearly impossible. We have become a society with access to limitless information at our fingertips, yet we use it to share pictures of cats, dogs, and viral entertainment. No one cares about the crisis in Libya, AIDS in Africa, or that tickets are now on sale for Justin Timberlake’s new tour (in fact, I didn’t even know he was on tour until he cancelled his MSG show last week! Proof in the pudding). The irony.

The rise of Interpersonal Duality

This background is all well and good, but it’s still not the point of this blog. Here’s the point:

10 years ago, services like MySpace and Facebook became popular because they were tools built by Millennials for Millennials to serve our angsty early 20s purposes. When Facebook was TheFacebook, it’s biggest draw (at least for me) was the fact that I could connect with my classmates. On a campus of 25,000+ students, that was invaluable to my social college experience. Even with MySpace or Xanga, social media was a way to personally express yourself in an environment where digital was the new kid on the block. You could write your passive aggressive blogs about your ex anonymously and feel like you were connecting with everyone on a bigger scale. It was like a canvas to a painter with no social repercussions.

Millennials used social media to connect emotionally to one another. That’s why it was built. That’s why it worked. Period.

But now that social media is so mainstream, people are beginning to recoil on the initial Millennial uses of social media. Today, if you go to jail for something, the media scours your Facebook and Twitter to make assumptions about your lifestyle and personal essence based on your posts. If you’re looking for a job, your potential employers scan your social media to see if you’re a partier, a threat, or if you’re as intelligent as you made yourself out to be on your resume. Social media’s cardinal rule of emotional expression is now the exact tool that gets used against you. This means that people are now more vague, or even worse, are avoiding using social media for what made it popular — connecting in an authentic manner. This is why teens are abandoning traditional social sites at alarming rates, opting for services like Snapchat that make their interactions a mere blip in existence before they’re completely forgotten (or so they think ;)).

So, as a Millennial, whose entire “awkward teen” life was centered around emo status updates and angsty blogs, how do you handle the transition into “adulthood”? It’s no longer appropriate for us to make status updates about the difficult parts of our lives (like divorces, deaths, or health problems) because it leaves you open and vulnerable to tarnishing your “public image”. But if you’ve spent your entire life getting used to connecting to other people in a digital world, how do you transition to connecting in real life? I’ve found it a lot harder than I thought I would.

As an example, I’ve been going through a lot of very intense family drama over the past six months. Of course, I posted a pretty vague status update a few months ago on my personal Facebook page (friends only) about the frustration I was feeling, only to be met with text messages and IMs from a client about how it was inappropriate, and that I need to always maintain my public image. I should never let anyone know that anything is ever wrong. Ever. To an extent, she’s not wrong. My mom taught me that as well, which is why connecting with people is harder for me than some in the first place. I care more about other people’s problems than my own because then I never have to be vulnerable, which is almost always easier. But is it? Is it really easier if you can never express who you really are with people?

Ultimately, is that the world I want to live in? Is it the world you want to live in? A world where social media can no longer be utilized to connect in a vague way while going through difficult things? Where does the line get drawn on what is publicly or privately acceptable, and what is not?

This is the true essence of the interpersonal duality dilemma, in my opinion.

I don’t think that there’s a right or a wrong answer, but it is an impending battle that I firmly believe will only get harder as social media and technology continues to inject itself into the every day, especially for Millennials and the generation below us. I’m already concerned with teenage kids who do not seem to know how to have real conversations because they’re only used to texting, but I’m also not sure how to fix it.

Either way, as humans, I don’t think we can give up our humanity or the need for connection. Will we begin to turn our back on technology to connect again with real people?Will we even be capable of doing so? Or are we destined to become robots with perfect lives on the surface while the inner turmoil slowly eats away at our souls.

And the bigger question: which is worse? The corporate soul sucker, or your inner-self soul sucker?

You decide. I’m out of answers. :)

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Tori Kyes is a Los Angeles-based writer/producer and entrepreneur. She specializes in social media, technology, and entertainment. She's also an advocate for social change, a marathon runner, Ph. D student (Media Psychology), gratitude giver, and lover of life.

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