By Samantha Turcotte
If you had asked me this question a couple months ago, I would have said that technology and new media simply enhance our lives. It allows us to connect with people we went to elementary school with, to keep in contact with people studying abroad, and to let your grandma know what you did last weekend without having a two-hour phone call with her. Technology and new media are not inherently a bad thing, they can be very helpful in certain situations, but when you take a closer look, they have caused serious changes in ‘normal’ behavior.
When the millennial generation (those born from 1980-2000) told their parents they were bored, their parents would tell them to go outside and play or, if they were unlucky, give them chores to do. When they were told to go outside and play, many children would find neighborhood kids to play with. From a young age, millennials developed their interpersonal skills and tapped into the left side of their brain, which is the creative side. Now, in contrast, when children say they are bored, their parents hand them a smart device, which does not force them to have to get creative and use their imagination. Instead, they can stay inside on their couch or in their bedroom, most likely playing a mindless game that requires little if any creativity or social skills. This has led Generation Z (those born after 2000) to have undeveloped social skills, visible through trends such as tending to prefer texting overcalling or speaking in person. They also have larger tendencies to stay in rather than go out with friends.
In 2018, over 94% of eighteen to twenty-nine-year old’s in the United States own a smartphone (Pew Research Center). This number has grown at an alarming rate over the past 10 years. The increase in smart phone usage has led to an increase in connectedness among users and their devices, which in turn has, in many cases, led to media addiction. Since the smartphone has put everything people could need in the palm of their hand, many users are starting to face a severe lack of patience throughout multiple aspects of their life. When one does not receive a text back, there is a moment of panic, for people are accustomed to immediate responses. This overwhelming usage has also led to stress, anxiety, and sleeplessness as one waits for that immediate gratification. In addition to this, with the use of social media, it is very easy to compare oneself to others through the various platforms, with some studies even linking social media usage to developing depression and anxiety. Social media allows the world to have a look into your life all the time, which can make some people feel pressured to be ‘perfect’ around the clock.
While technology and new media are not inherently harmful, the way society has encultured the population on how to use it is what is ruining the younger generations. Technology places pressure on each user to always be online. Whether that is to follow the most recent news update or to play Words with Friends, there is a certain level of pressure. If everyone would take a moment to step back and reflect on what is important, they would realize that without technology and new media, the world would still move forward. You do NOT have to always be online.