Keep Your Eyes up and Your Phone Down (Not Just on Muni)

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Social media has been linked to feelings of isolation on campus, but why is that? GRAPHIC BY GABRIEL GRESCHLER/FOGHORN, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Next time you walk down LoMo, I want you to note the number of people not wearing headphones as they walk by. You’ll only need one hand.

While listening to music while we walk is not a problem in itself, the phenomenon becomes rather disturbing when we realize that this constant distraction is not just isolated to college campuses. Why does it seem like we can’t identify one person going through life without the constant distraction of technology? Most people taking the bus or even just walking on the streets of San Francisco, and anywhere else for that matter, are constantly on a call, listening to music or otherwise occupying themselves with technology.

It can become a little “Black Mirror”-y to watch how technology-dependent we are as a society — even our watches having texting capability now.

Our dependency on our phones or music is so pervasive that most of us find ourselves emptily consuming media to simply fill time. The tendency to constantly busy ourselves with technology in all aspects of our lives has serious ramifications on the health of our generation and some claim that it’s this shift in culture that directly relates to the 91 percent of Generation Z adults who cite physical or emotional symptoms of stress, such as depression or anxiety.

Even when it comes to romantic relationships, more of us are switching over to online dating, encouraging us to depend on our devices for many of the most important aspects of our lives. In fact, 39 percent of Tinder users are between the ages of 16 and 24. Fifty seven million people are currently registered on Tinder. Searching for romance or sex is a significant part of social interaction and by shifting that activity over to the app world we are putting more power into the ploy that is “creating” oneself online. Instead of trying to get an impression of someone in real life, we rely on stalking Instagrams, finding mutuals and swiping right to get reconnaissance. And even there, we are only judging the people that could be our primary romantic partners based on their own curated versions of themselves.

So what’s the effect of all of this? We are unable to make genuine connections without fear of being socially reprimanded. Even the smallest actions that we’ve normalized on a college campus and in the real world represents this fear: how most people take their food to go from the cafeteria to avoid eating alone in public, wear headphones to absorb the silence of walking from place to place, and how we get the impulse to check our phones in an awkward or uncomfortable situation.

Yet somehow we still wonder why anxiety and isolation present itself on a massive scale in this generation, and even on our campus. More now than ever, young people have an irrational fear of being alone or unoccupied.

We view being alone or silent as such a strange thing. Is it that fear of being alone causing us to constantly present ourselves as occupied? My answer is yes. In a society where we have grown so accustomed to the constant stimulation of technology, it feels lonely and wrong to not be doing something. But just because you can consume it, doesn’t mean you should.

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