The article below is written by Jean M. Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of Generation Me and iGen (these are not affiliate links). In it he outlines some stark developments in what he refers to as generation iGen, those born between 1995 - 2012, a generation “shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media”.
We’ve all had a role to play in the rise of smart devices and so called social media, and we are just now entering into a time where the resulting social ramifications are becoming measurable and noticeable. It’s a revealing and important read.
As well as current research and expert opinion, Twenge incorporates excerpts from an anonymous teenage interviewee who exemplifies the social repression and depressive qualities that smartphone addiction can bring about if used without considered thought. The article is well rounded, forward thinking and not in anyway fear mongering or sensationalist, which are aspects that can plague topics such as this.
Unlike Twenge, I don’t hold a doctorate of Psychology, but being just on the edge of iGen myself, I can relate to a lot of what he has observed. Despite the convenience that smartphones and near constant internet connectivity offer, I can’t help but feel a deep sadness when I see groups of children sitting together, staring at their smartphones, frantically keeping up to date with the latest Snapchat, Instagram story or Facebook notification. It’s quite clear that behaviour like that is not in any way healthy - not in any way. I would think it’s safe to assume that childhood memories are some of our fondest. If a childhood is dominated day and night by close to meaningless micro-distractions, then I would personally find it very hard to feel happy in my older age.
For all kids growing up, it’s painful to the brink of insanity to be left out of social trends and behaviours. I remember the frustration of being denied a Playstation for many years, but the Playstation differed from a smartphone in that it wasn’t a tool to communicate with my friends. I couldn’t imagine the frustration and social ostracisation I would’ve sustained if I were denied a smartphone when all my friends had one. Herein lies the dangerous conundrum for future generations. How to mitigate the detrimental effects of smartphone and social media addiction, when for modern teenagers it’s become the main way to communicate and organise social events?
“The Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and designed to be nationally representative, has asked 12th-graders more than 1,000 questions every year since 1975 and queried eighth- and 10th-graders since 1991. The survey asks teens how happy they are and also how much of their leisure time they spend on various activities, including nonscreen activities such as in-person social interaction and exercise, and, in recent years, screen activities such as using social media, texting, and browsing the web. The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.”
It’s for these reasons, as well as the noticeable reduction in my memory retention, attention span and awareness of myself and my environment that I decided to rid myself of my iPhone (if you’re interested in these later topics, you can read this article on Scientific American as a starter: The Internet Has Become the External Hard Drive for our Memories).
In short, the results have been impressive, but it’s only been two months, so I’m cautious about developing too strong of an opinion. But so far I’ve noticed that I’m less stressed, more organised, more focussed and generally enjoy my time more as I don’t have the option of being constantly distracted. Overall, there’s been an increased clarity in every day life and I feel less overwhelmed and more peaceful, which of course makes it much easier to be creative and make music. The most revealing aspect though, is the realisation of how little I actually did need the smartphone compared to how much time and energy it sucked away from me. So far, I’m hoping I never have to use one again.