*This article references both technology and social media as related entities as they are often used together.
We’ve all heard someone utter the sentiment that Millennials’ dependence on technology is wrecking society. In fact, just the other day I had an older gentleman lean over while I was sending a text and say to me in a somewhat-patronizing tone, “your generation is just all about your phones, isn’t it?” It certainly does seem that way at times, I’ll admit. My grandmother’s favorite thing to say regarding my generation is, “I’m sure glad I’m not growing up in today’s world!” I mean, we’re losing our social skills after all!
Or are we…?
In a simplified sense, resistance to advances in technology is really just another way of reiterating the classic phrase, “get off my lawn ya damn kids!” Every generation throughout history has experienced the same negative sentiment about up-and-coming generations. David Finkelhor, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire, calls this phenomenon juvenoia, or “exaggerated anxiety about the influence of social change on children and youth.” This image captures the phenomenon well; it was created by cartoonist Bill Mauldin in 1950. Yes, believe it or not even the Greatest Generation had perceived flaws according to their grandparents.
So now that we’ve addressed the phenomenon of juvenoia, is Millennials’ use of technology and innovation actually detrimental to our society?
Nope, not really.
A fairly common negative assumption that people have about technology (more specifically, smart phones in this case) is that it enables us to not communicate with each other in public spaces, thus making us more isolated. I’ll just go ahead and squash that argument here with a quote by writer Hector L. Carral in reference to people using their smart phones on a subway:
“What else could people do…if smart phones didn’t exist? Talking to each other? Let’s not fool ourselves. People do not like to interact with strangers in these contexts. They didn’t when smart phones were far from existing; they just used another object instead, like a newspaper.”
The fact of the matter is that smart phones don’t change human nature.
All of this new technology and social innovation is allowing us to communicate and stay informed in ways that prior generations couldn’t. I’ll speak anecdotally here for a minute: I just created a Twitter account for myself (I know, I know; I’m a bit of a late-bloomer) after years of griping about how “pointless” and “silly” Twitter is. I’ll just come out and say it: I was wrong. Twitter is an innovative means of staying up-to-date on anything and everything you could imagine. All I have to do is hit the Twitter app icon on my phone and immediately I can see all of the latest stories from The New York Times, or the score of the Seahawks game in real-time.
Facebook is of course another commonly-used platform and a great way to keep in touch with old friends who you may have not seen in years. I’ve been able to stay connected with my friends in other countries because of Facebook. Talking to people across the world is the easiest it’s ever been with instant messaging. I’ve only begun to touch the tip of the iceberg here, as there are heaps of other social media platforms good for getting connected.
How all of the aforementioned could lead someone to the conclusion that technology is causing us to lose our social skills or become more isolated, I’ll never understand. It seems evident that we are in fact better-able to communicate in this day and age. And when it comes down to it, it’s important to remember that change is not automatically synonymous with “bad.”
So my fellow Millennials, let’s keep on utilizing the social media and the vast technological advances we have available to us. It seems that society might actually be better for it.
Art by Erick Macias