Exploring the Impact of Millennials’ Use of Social Media on Their Attachment Experiences, and Its Possible Implications for Psychotherapy – a Thematic Analysis

Viljoen, Brigitte
Emmens, Joanne
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Master of Psychotherapy
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Auckland University of Technology

Attachment is an innate human need which is initially met from secure attachment relationships between children and parents/caregivers, and also their community relationships. Where parents buffer or gate-keep the outside world and provide a secure base for their children to be creative and play – a transitional space. This dissertation was an interpretivist study, employing the qualitative method of thematic analysis, with the intention of providing further understanding about the impact of the Millennial generation’s attachment experiences in relation to their digital social media use. Additionally, what implications this might have in the psychotherapeutic clinical situation (especially with older generation therapists), as well as in the broader societal context.

This study concentrated on those limited literature sources that considered the actual accounts and first-hand attachment experiences and social media use of the Millennial generation, and where the thematic analysis identified the central theme of ‘Attachment Experiences’ interlinked with the themes of Parenting, Millennial Generation, Technology, and Psychotherapeutic Reflections. The discussion of the findings highlighted that Millennials, who have had secure attachments, appear to use social media as a tool that supports and strengthens their ‘offline’ attachments in a healthy and creative cyclic flow. Whereas, insecure attachments appear to be more linear, where attachment hunger results in these Millennials using social media in an effort to feel ‘attachment-satiated’, yet the empty calories of online relating leave them wanting and unfulfilled. The study identified Millennial attachment styles and changes in possible ways to consider what this might mean for future generations, the way attachment needs are met, and what this might mean for the psychotherapeutic process (both in theory and practice).

Social media , Millennial Generation , Attachment , Psychotherapy , Psychoanalysis
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