Generation Y and The Smartphone : Friends Not Foes
By Kye Makyeli
Somehow, like every single thing ever invented, the smartphone has managed to become an instrument of worry among many people. Especially non-millenials. When the older generation expresses concern about how smartphones are damaging our young people, I laugh. Let’s be very clear here. Being concerned about cultural progression “damaging us as a society” always repeats itself with the current trend and will continue to play itself out again and again and again.
Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are no different from any previous generation when it comes to being affected by a culture shift. In the 1940s, people had their heads in the newspaper and theirs ears to the radio. By the 60s, it was the TV. What about everyone today on their laptop and smartphones at a restaurant, inside a taxi or at their work desk? See what I’m getting at?
I believe that what is happening with technology; in our culture and society, is just an evolution.
Technology is not undermining real human interactions. Instead, it is exposing people for who they really are. My Father recently asked, “What are we teaching the young people?” after he saw my cousins scrambling to take selfies instead of rushing to the food table to dig into the chow that had been prepared for the family gathering. I’ve watched the behavior of 16-year-old girls spending up to ten minutes or more taking the best selfie, post it on Instagram, and then take it down when it doesn’t get enough likes (my niece is a culprit, and so are many of us). This superficial behavior tends to concern those who think that technology is the cause of this appearance driven, attention seeking behavior in young people. But the thing is, part of being young is wanting to be liked and seeking the attention of peers and potential significant others. Selfies on Instagram is the evolution of this same behavior.
Technology provides us additional pathways to act on these behavioral tendencies that have always existed. We should not “feel sorry” for the couple on a date who are looking at their phones. For all we know, their phones are providing a different, more constructive outlet to focus their attention instead of allowing for arguments or an awkward silence. Two people who didn’t like each other would ignore each other regardless of Instagram or Candy Crush.
Parents I know are concerned that children will not know how to socialize and that technology is ruining people’s ability to effectively communicate verbally with others. They say that the interactions on Snapchat or Facebook “aren’t real” and are alienating kids from the world. I would argue that children, who have “no friends” in school now have the opportunity to make friends online through Tagged, Twitter, and other social platforms. It is easier than ever to find a community with similar interests. The next generation of parents will wish for the days of Instagram selfies when the virtual reality world takes hold.
The problem is that we get scared of everything that we didn’t grow up with. It is a human thing to do: fear the unknown. Every new medium brings along a healthy fear that the newest invention will ruin society. But, the truth is that people will always be looking for new ways to be entertained, consume media, and engage with each other.
Technology has not changed us, technology has simply made it easier for people to engage in behaviors that they would rather be doing anyway. Some families watched TV instead of talking to each other back in the day. Today, those same families play on their phones and check their likes on Instagram during dinner. In no way am I telling you how your family should be spending time with each other, but there is always going to be something in every generation that is going to “bring us down” as a society.” Either you are a pessimist or optimist on this issue. I am an optimist.
This is just an evolution.