Millennials are Googling themselves each day — and it’s seriously messing with their mental health
What does the under 35 crowd want to learn about most? Themselves.
Data released Thursday from Bank of America found that 9% of millennials and 11% of Gen Z say they Google themselves every day, versus 6% for the population overall.
I Google myself every day
Gen Z: 11%
Gen X: 5%
Baby boomers: 5%
What’s more, millennials top the list of those who say they Google themselves “frequently” with 57% admitting to this.
I frequently Google myself
Gen Z: 48%
Gen Xers: 45%
Baby boomers: 37%
It’s not just Jane and John Does who do it either: Plenty of millennial A-listers admit to Googling themselves, including Blake Lively, Kristen Stewart, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Lawrence. And the topic has become so mainstream that it appeared on HBO’s popular series Girls. In Season 5, Hannah Horvath’s friend and literary nemesis Tally Schrifin admits to doing it, saying “Do you know I Google myself every day. It’s so gross but I do and I just want to see if like Gawker or whoever they are has written a snarky comment thing about what a hack I am or even if there’s a pretty picture of me in the Financial Times roundup of Books of the Year.”
Why are the younger generations more likely to look themselves up online frequently? One reason may be ego. “Googling yourself has become a new form of narcissism in our society,” says psychologist Christina Barber-Addis. Indeed, research published in 2008 by Swiss and Australian scientists found that our obsession with self-Googling is, in part, due to a rise in narcissism — and millennials have higher levels of narcissism that older generations, research from psychologist Jean Twenge, author of “The Narcissism Epidemic,” found. The 2008 study also found that self-Googling was a way for people to find out about and alter their online “brand” — something millennials are more apt to care about cultivating.
In many ways, it’s smart to — at least sometimes — Google yourself, says Barber-Addis. Indeed, eight in 10 employers Google potential employees before they hire them, so you want to know what’s out there on you and correct any errors. Potential dates are also likely to look you up (71% say they research a person before they go out with them) so, again, you want to ensure that your search results match up with the perception you’re hoping to put out into the world.
Still, experts say that you should limit how often you Google yourself — Barber-Addis recommends no more than every few months or if there is a big event like a job interview coming up — as it can have harmful psychological consequences. “As people post more and more on social media, they seem to be googling themselves often to see how they are being seen by others,” says Barber-Addis. “The response to this likely swings from deep satisfaction if there is a positive reflection seen, to despair if it appears that they are not being seen, or if there is a negative reflection.” What’s more, psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, author of “Better Than Perfect” says that Googling yourself too often can lead to issues “ranging from depression and anxiety to shame and guilt as well as anger towards the people who make any negative comments.”
Of course, it’s hard to resist the occasional Google of your name. But if you do, it’s important to remember that what people say about you on the internet isn’t always how they feel. “People can be mean on the Internet – meaner than in real life because there tends to be a sense of anonymity. People often say things they wouldn’t normally say to your face online,” says Lombardo. “What’s more, they don’t always mean it either. Sometimes it’s just a stress release, an impulsive reaction.”
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