The Ways In Which Hyper Individuation Does, Or Doesn’t, Affect Millennials
Politics and Activism

The Ways In Which Hyper Individuation Does, Or Doesn’t, Affect Millennials

What else are millennials killing?

Jasmine Miller

Are millennials uprooting our (supposed) communal society? Are they really a sadder, lonelier, more narcissistic, and greedy generation?

Short answer—no.

Long answer—it’s complicated.

It is (slightly) understandable why, given contemporary statistics, many folks believe the younger generation of today to have these base characteristics.

  • Loneliness appears most frequently and disproportionately, in adults younger than thirty years old. In a national survey, it was discovered that these people reported experiencing considerably higher levels of loneliness than almost any other age group.
  • Currently, in the U.S., for every 1,000 individuals, about seven are getting married. It is the lowest marriage rate in the last 150 years, at least. Additionally, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the country will go on to obtain a divorce, and each marriage thereafter only depletes in its odds of enduring.
  • Approximately a third of all people residing in the U.S. say they have never interacted with their neighbors, this is a striking comparison with statistics from the 1970s, where roughly only a fifth of people had no interactions with neighbors.
  • Most people in the U.S. have only two close friends, despite the high numbers of friends on social media sites. Years ago, most people reported having at least three close friends in their lives.

So, why are young adults overcome with feelings of missing others and feeling left out regularly? Why do people in our society crave relationships only for them to wither away to failure? What is the cause for our aversion to interacting with the people that live in the same communities as us? How can we claim only two people as confidants, comrades, or friends when our world is, now, more than ever, globally connected and ever increasing?

It would seem as if, despite the incredibly innovative and seemingly connective technology we have in this day and age—such as the smartphone, video messaging, and the internet (specifically social media sites such as Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter)—there is a deep disconnect.

These questions along with a perceived societal disconnect have spurred many ideas and theories in attempts to seek out answers.

The theory of Hyper-individuation, a term coined in the book, "Nations of One" by Lena Ericksen and Marc Shimazu, is particularly interesting, as it is one of the more fleshed out theories thus far. Though, it has significant faults and assumptions deeply embedded in its foundation.

Hyper-individuation (HI) is defined as a frame of mind, or attitude, in which an individual identifies their self as the most central of any and all things, extending beyond ones intrinsic and instinctual sense of self-sufficiency and survival.

In a society fueled by rapid consumption, the hyper-individuated person still manages to see themselves at the center.

The authors argue that hyper-individuation is essentially a result of a Western “supply-side economic structure,” wherein demand is deliberately generated to offset steadily increasing supplies.

Additionally, Ericksen and Shimazu outline some of the principal socioeconomic forces that maintain HI. Including:

—How work is no longer traded for other goods and services but instead for wages

—General and widespread accessibility to potential workers or service providers

—And, the ease of exchanging money for their subsequent services.

Societal consequences of Hyper-individuation are said to include rampant loneliness, a perpetual increase in homes that house just a single person, and a deterioration of neighborhood bonds and communal ties.

There are three developmental paths of hyper-individuation: initial Hyper-individuation (iHI), developed Hyper-individuation (dHI), and finally, transcendental Hyper-individuation (tHI).

The first phase, iHI, is marked by an individual expressing themselves through consumerism. Ericksen and Shimazu propose that “the indispensable link between the iHI person and the world beyond the self is advertising.”

The initial Hyper-individual heavily relies upon ads to assess what is standard and expected. They need to know what is ‘hip’ and what is trending. They need to belong. So, purchasing a certain brand of food at the grocery store, owning a popular smartphone, or even wearing the “in” fashion styles result in feelings of belonging among the iHI.

The second phase, dHI, occurs when an individual tries to bring purpose and significance into their lives. The developed Hyper-individual struggles to find this meaning and seeks it out via drugs, empty relationships, or money.

And lastly, tHI, or transcendental Hyper-individuation, is a phase in which the individual has an understanding of the self, relative to a grander perspective. The tHI has an appreciation of other individuals, the arts, religion, science, etc. in regards to finishing their self-awareness and the world that may lie beyond.

The origins of Hyper-indviduation, Ericksen and Shimazu assert, are primarily a mental state that does not require any explicit learning or socializing to implement the mindset. In other words, you are born with it.

Being a Hyper-individual is the norm now in modern society, along with being greedy and coveting wealth. The authors go on to note that in traditional societies, concern for others was a learned behavior, however, it is conveniently left out in which societies that overt consideration for others was reinforced.

Although individuals’ feelings of loneliness has been on the rise, it is ridiculously speculative and insultingly vague as to whether or not there is a decline of community—and which community at that, as critical race theory, gender schema theory, queer theory, and Marxian class theory, along with the theory of intersectionality, can provide answers as to why a certain community may be on the downfall and the causes of such declination.

Also, the average number of people per household has been decreasing consistently, albeit extremely slowly, since the 1960s. With that mind, over the past 44 years of census taking, the household average has been 2.71 people.

Additionally, the authors suggest that money is all the Hyper-individual necessitates to live and that it is often seen as “one of the few objective indicators of a person’s qualities—money supersedes attributes like fidelity or honesty.” However, is it truly shocking as to why the HI, or anyone living in an imperialist, capitalist society, considers money so important?

Without it, a person is not afforded even the basic essentials to life, such as water, food, shelter, even air, let alone its commodities and luxuries. Admittedly, human greed can produce vicious consumers that are only concerned with objects and materials; while what they consume and the means in which they are able to do so may vary, these people have always existed in some shape or form.

Furthermore, the reasons Ericksen and Shimazu insist as to why the HI is concerned only with the self is precarious. They offer that because the current economic system (capitalism) remains non-personified, individuals began to foster attachments to themselves rather than, for example, Father Time or Mother Nature, like our ancient human predecessors. It can be countered, however, that individuals lost interest (and belief) in the personification of entities long, long before the facelessness of the market forces came into play.

Hyper-Individuation can perhaps provide some insight as to why relationships are short lived, why so many are so lonely, why friendships are fleeting, and why there is an intense need to feel a part of something bigger than yourself—but it is not the end-all-be-all, at least, not without more intense, quantitative data to support it. It would behoove future researchers to study Hyper-individuation much more closely, and in locations not predominantly consisting of young adults so as to better witness how HI affects the U.S. population as a whole.

Moreover, the subtle digs at the younger generation—whom the authors concluded are more likely to fall under some spectrum of Hyper-individuation than older generations—will only hinder the cause. Too often, the generation gap prevents so many from seeing that the youth, particularly young adults, are not alone in their misdeeds, immorality, attitudes, and loneliness.

Annual surveys of drug use and abuse among those ages 13 to 19 show that use of amphetamines and cocaine is dropping. However, substance abuse, particularly of alcohol and prescription drugs, among adults sixty and older sixty is a growing epidemic. It is estimated that seventeen percent of these adults have struggle with substance abuse.

But, even as the number of older adults suffering from addictions and abuse climbs, the situation remains swept under the rug. Similarly, besides young adults, older individuals have the highest rates of loneliness and feelings of abandonment. Both these age groups could fall under developed Hyper-individuation, but, interestingly enough, the authors choose only to focus on millennials. Why?

Furthermore, using the African American community as an example, the racist and disproportionate policing of neighborhoods in the 1980s (under the guise of the War on Drugs) resulted in many arrests of Black men and women, but more so Black men. These arrests bolstered a bustling prison industry and resulted in demand for more prisoners to fill the increasing amount of prisons being built.

In turn, more Black men are arrested, taken away from their families, and upon release, are more susceptible to crime—allowing the cycle to continue, even generationally. So, is it fair, or even factual, to say that the reason for the deterioration of the (Black) community is due to selfishness and consumption?

Taking into account the detrimental effects of racism, white supremacy, sexism, colonialism, classism, and homophobia could assist in filling in the social gaps that HI cannot solely account for.

Millennials are not the end of our society. We are the beginning.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Disney Plus

Millions of musical-lovers around the world rejoiced when "Hamilton," the hip-hop-mixtape-turned-musical harder to get in to than Studio 54, came to Disney Plus.

For those who had the luxury of being able to watch it in person and rewatch it with us mere mortals on our screens, the experience was almost as gripping as sitting feet from Lin-Manuel Miranda himself. From the stunning sets, graceful choreography, witty dialogue, and hauntingly beautiful singing, the experience was one even my musical-averse family felt moved by.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

We Asked You How You Felt About Resuming 'Normal' Activities, And Some Of Your Answers Shocked Us

The New York Times asked 511 epidemiologists when they'd feel comfortable doing "normal" activities again, considering COVID-19. We asked our peers the same thing, for science.

Last month, the New York Times surveyed about 500 epidemiologists asking about their comfort level with certain activities once deemed normal — socializing with friends, going to the doctor, bringing in the mail. That's all well and good for the experts, but they are a very niche group, not the majority of the population. What do "normal" people feel safe doing? In certain states, we've seen how comfortable everyone is with everything (looking at you, Florida), but we wanted to know where Odyssey's readers fell on the comfort scale. Are they sticking with the epidemiologists who won't be attending a wedding for another year, or are they storming the sunny beaches as soon as possible?

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Keto Is All Fun And Games Until You're Undernourished And Almost Pass Out

Keto is just another extension of diet culture that boasts rapid weight loss, but at a steep price.

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

There has been a Keto diet craze going around in the past couple of years, with many of its followers claiming significant weight loss. With any new, trendy diet claiming miraculous weight-loss, one starts to wonder what exactly is happening behind the curtain. The keto, or ketogenic, diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that claims to help the body shift its fuel source from carbs to fat. In the medical community it has been prescribed to patients with uncontrolled epilepsy to reduce the frequency of seizures, but other than that there is little conclusive evidence to other potential benefits.

Keep Reading... Show less

Jennifer Kustanovich is not only the president of the Odyssey at Stony Brook University but is also an illuminating yoga instructor. She's an inspiring proactive leader in the wellness industry. Her expertise in movement expands onto Zumba and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

On the last day of her in-person class, she gave everyone a way of contacting her and made sure to check up on all her clients. She wanted to ensure that they were doing okay and to remind them that she is always there.

Keep Reading... Show less

These 5 Black Female-Owned Swimwear Brands Are Must-Haves For Your HOTTEST Summer Yet

To all the woman who put their money where their mouth is, lets do two things for the price of one.

The start of summer is always exciting,(especially after an unprecedented pandemic) and people are itching to make this particular summer count. Correction: with the amount gratefulness I have for life at this moment in time I am itching to make this summer count.

But at the same time, in the midst of social justice issues, activism is something that is at the forefront of many people's minds, including mine. With money comes power and buying Black is a way to directly help the marginalized and oppressed while getting something in return.

Keep Reading... Show less

These Are The Black-Owned Restaurants In Chicago You Should Absolutely Be Supporting

Support the movement and your appetite at the same time with these amazing spots.

The Black Lives Matter movement is taking the country by storm to crash down systematic racism and liberate people of color. However, during these changing it can be hard to determine what you can do to make an impact besides reposting Instagram stories and texting petition numbers. Instead, support Black-owned businesses or, more specifically, Black-owned restaurants. Here are some outstanding and underrated Black-owned restaurants in Chicago that can help you support the movement.
Keep Reading... Show less

10 Things To Know About LDRs, From A Couple Separated By The Atlantic Ocean AND A Pandemic

There will be challenges, but more often than not, it's worth it.

Most individuals in relationships have not been able to go on romantic dates in quite a while due to business closures in the wake of the pandemic. Other couples have encountered challenges while seeing each other face to face in the past three months due to coronavirus regulations. Long-distance relationships have unfortunately become a reality for many in this era of global health crises. Western New York native and travel journalist, Chelsea Baron, knows this all too well.

Keep Reading... Show less

5 Easy Summer Mocktail Recipes You Can Make With Items You Probably Already Have On-Hand

Keep these drinks in mind next time you're visiting your local farmer's market — you might want to grab some extra mint and limes.

With Summer 2020 in full swing comes the addition of many fresh fruits and vegetables to brighten up your dinner plate, but also your glass! Farmers markets are my personal favorite place to look for produce that is in season to make fun mocktails with.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments