You wake up suddenly to the sound of your alarm blaring. You turn it off and instinctively reach for your phone – your day is already lost. You are bombarded with notifications from social media and your willpower doesn’t hold you back, so you immerse yourself in the phone world.
This is precisely how the average person in our generation wakes up. More importantly, this is how Gen Z has been waking up for most of their lives. Gen Z, people born from the late 1990s to the early 2010s, are so out of touch with reality that in fact, there isn’t a single place you could pass by without seeing a person on their phones.
As a college student, I observe the effects of digital dependency every single day. I’m sure you have also noticed. Spending time with friends and family just isn’t the same anymore. I can vividly recall back to my days as a child, and how much fun I had playing with my friends and letting our imaginations run wild. I looked at every single moment of my day with optimistic excitement. Today, I notice that the energy of myself and people around me don’t compare to the past. As we immerse our society into this new age of technology, it becomes exponentially easier to communicate through technology. As a byproduct, it has become more difficult to communicate in person.
To make things worse, over the past two years, the Covid-19 lockdown forced us to develop an even greater dependency on technology, as that was the only contact we had with the outside world. It is an indisputable fact that human interaction has changed and continues to change every year. What does this mean for us?
The ways we interact with one another, whether more convenient or not, has its consequences. Gen Z is the most depressed and anxious generation that our country has ever harvested. Why is this? You guessed it: technology. Research is showing us how much of an issue this technological dependence really is. Technology has influenced how we communicate, and has improved the convenience of communication in countless ways. If you told our parents when we were young that they would be able to talk through video chat, they would have thought you crazy. However, this, like everything, does not come without its downsides. Not only does technology affect our social skills, but it is also linked to depression and low self-esteem. The graph below visually displays the effect that social media has on suicide rates in the last decade.
As you can see, once social media became accessible through our mobile devices, we began to see a clear upward trend of suicide rates for women. The average screen time for someone in Gen Z is 7.2 hours per day, which is more than 6.3 hours spent by Gen X (Faughnder, 2022). This shocking fact shows us how much of our lives are really consumed by the screen. If you sleep 8 hours, and you are on your screen for 8 hours, you are truly only living 8 hours out of your 24 hour day. You are living only ⅓ of your life.How eye opening is that?
Will this issue continue to worsen with our rapid technological advances? Many people neglect the evidence we have collected linking technology use with diminishing mental health. Given this issue, we are presented with two options. We can either go about our day neglecting these facts, or face the truth head-on and work towards improvement.
When we compare our generation to others, we note a key difference: our headspace. This includes all of the things affecting our headspace such as the artificial dopamine from our devices. The headspace the majority of us reside in is the key change in our lifestyle that we should aim to fix. Technological advance is inevitable and ties into our lifestyle no matter what. But we can still manage the negative effects through habits that we create for ourselves.
You are always choosing.
What can be done? One could argue that we can simply use our phones less, and although that is the simple solution, it is easier said than done. Tomorrow when you wake up, don’t reach for your phone. Go about your morning routine beforehand and better yet, leave it untouched for an hour. See how much better your day is. We need to connect back to our roots and remember how we lived such fulfilling lives before these advances in technology came to be.
Although some of us may not have experienced life without technological dependence ourselves, our parents and older peers have. Do yourself a favor and ask an older figure in your life about how life was without technology. The solution to regress in our dependence on technology is rewiring our brains to enjoy natural sources of dopamine once again.
Find hobbies outside of social media. Turn off your notifications. Go to the gym with your buddies. Live the life that was given to you. Put the phone down and enjoy the company. We are all going to leave earth someday. You need to start somewhere – so you might as well start today.
Faughnder, R. (2022, April 12). Gen Z spends half its waking hours on screen time. here’s the good and bad news for Hollywood. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/newsletter/2022-04-12/gen-z-spends-half-its-waking-hours-on-screen-time-heres-the-good-and-bad-news-for-hollywood-the-wide-shot