It’s been said that the majority of millennials lack basic relational skills, which means a lot more millennials (and people) lack emotional-depth and compassion towards each other compared to previous generations. In today’s society, it’s no secret that we also have low attention spans and can either have too much self-esteem or too little. Mobile phones, the internet, and the rise of social media have been pointed out as the main culprits behind everything that’s wrong with today’s society.
The often-quoted gripe is that today’s youngsters – especially teenagers – would rather spend more time with their smartphones than have a real, authentic conversation face-to-face. It’s almost deemed as strange to even have a conversation with a civilised person in public. For years, the idea of social media and mobile phones has been debated upon in regards to factoring into the mental-health state of youths. However, if you dig a little deeper, things are not so simple. In fact, the criticism of mobile phones is old wine in a new bottle.
The debate of obesity and television
In the late ’80s and ’90s, several articles were published in newspapers and magazines about how watching TV leads to obesity – this of course reflected the lack of knowledge society had with new technology back then. While there might be correlation between watching excessive television and obesity, a concrete causation was never found. In fact, a 2006 report suggested a correlation between advertising of sugary foods on TV and obesity. Thus, it was never the TV but the kind of content you consumed that could lead to bad eating habits, and eventually, obesity.
The same goes for all of the current studies claiming that excessive use of mobile phones and social media can lead to depression. While studies have found a correlation between the two, concrete causation again hasn’t been proved, as of yet. We are not sure whether depressed people spend more time on mobile phones and social media, or if it’s the other way around.
The majority of these studies also ignore social contexts, such as how and in what capacity someone is using their smartphone, what kind of content they are consuming etc.
All generations have always had their distractions
For Generation X, it was their Atari and other video game consoles and baby boomers were obsessed with their television sets. Through history, each time a new technology has emerged, the young generation at the time has always been smitten by it and embraced it. Before the advent of digital technology, there was newspapers and magazines that similarly provided a source of entertainment and distraction to people. You only have to take a look during the 1960’s of people using newspapers as a way to stay distracted on their public commute, avoiding any type of socialising.
Ever since the industrial revolution, humans have progressed to a more comfortable lifestyle, which has also meant that it is easy for things to get monotonous. Each generation has found a way to break that monotony by different ways of distraction. The older generation, today, ranting about the excessive use of mobile phones by teenagers seems to be a case of contradiction rather than lecturing.
There are two sides to the story
There is ample evidence that suggests mobile phones and the internet have made us even more productive and also improved our cognitive abilities. At the same time, the paradox of choice is also a reality, which means we spend way more time deciding what to watch on Netflix, what social media app we should use next and what picture we should post on to Instagram, than we should.
Social media has enabled socially reclusive teenagers to connect with similar people around their area and around the globe. It has allowed many teenagers who feel as though they don’t fit in or feel lost in society to feel a sense of belonging to a group, which can oppose the negative views people have over mobile phones and depression. At the same time, going through a friend’s Instagram and seeing all that they have achieved and the perfect lifestyle they try to portray can trigger feelings of low self-esteem for vulnerable people.
Social media (and the internet at large) has enabled iconic social movements, such as the ‘Me Too’ movement. It is also responsible for armchair activism and the rise of fundamentalist groups, which dilute important movements such as feminism.
We could write an entire book on the positives and negatives of internet technology, smartphones, and social media, but in the end, it all comes down to how the mobile industry chooses to promote their mobile apps. The crux of the matter is: do not shoot the messenger. Instead of criticising the use of smartphones, it is important to spread information on the healthy use of technology, how to handle online bullying, and how to strike a natural balance between your virtual life and real life.
Let’s follow the middle path, until the next piece of technology arrives, and millennials rant about their successive generation. If you have an app idea that you believe could help benefit society, Talk To Us today!