Last week the New York Times reported on a new meta-analysis that found increasing perfectionist tendencies among college students today versus those three decades ago. Perfectionism was 33% higher on college campuses in 2016 than it was in 1989, according to over 41,000 students’ responses to a (nonclinical) instrument called the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale spanning those years. A likely culprit researchers identified? Social media.
While we know “social comparisons” encouraged by platforms like Facebook and Instagram can lead to low self-assessments, it’s probably not fair to just point the finger at social media. As a Times commenter named Terry puts it:
The older generation loves to blame social media and the Internet for everything “wrong” with my generation but, as usual, fails to consider the economic pressure put on millennials . . . Those of us who want to make the kind of money to pay off our student loans and one day (god forbid!) perhaps even buy a house and a car find ourselves entering highly competitive application processes (for jobs in business, finance, tech; for law or med school, etc.)
This study aside, there still isn’t a lot of solid research on millennial behaviors and where they originate. By comparison, there’s ample—and largely grim—data on the economic pressures facing people like Terry.