Back in 2011, I wrote this:

I read an interesting article in Newsweek that discusses how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) may be increasing our loneliness. We’re more connected, yes, but in a disconnected way. That is, our interactions are not intimate, but increasingly via a text message, e-mail, or through social media.

I think this behavior is what scares me most when contemplating a future of increased use of ICT. I love gadgets and I am profoundly grateful to live in an age of such fun and convenience, but I will have to be conscious of becoming too disconnected from what matters most if I allow myself  to become too connected to technology. In some ways, ICT creates an unhealthy distraction.

Fast forward six years later, and my worst fears about technology disconnecting us from other humans in terms of physical proximity and relational intimacy are apparently being realized. In an article published in The Atlantic, psychologist Jean Twenge discusses how more and more in-person interaction is being replaced by interaction in the digital realm. One teen’s startling revelation is particularly revealing, “I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”

If the story ended there, we’d probably be okay. However, Dr. Twenge found other deleterious effects of persistent withdrawal from in-person interaction.

“Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”

We can’t know how this picture will look in another five years, of course, but the downward trending of happiness and satisfaction with life, combined with the increase of forming and maintaining relationships in the settings of social media and chat applications, does not bode well for the current generation of youth and those that come after–assuming the current generation is able to form intimate relationships and procreate so there are future generations.

The effects of social media and smartphones in our always-connected lives are receiving more and more coverage as studies are conducted that show links to depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and other issues. The BBC has a really good write-up that explores the evidence and the unknowns about social media use, published in January of 2018.

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