By Anthony Foti
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the future. Not necessarily regarding my physical
health, money or even job status. I’m concerned about technology and what it does to our mental health and stability. In 2021, most Gen Z teens are so glued to technology and cell phones, it’s almost as if real conversations are a rare sight. It’s hard to ignore the recent skyrocketing levels of depression, anxiety and isolation in my generation. I’m just hoping that by the time you read this letter, you haven’t gone down that path and fallen into the cracks of these awful trends.
As I sit here writing, I can't help the urge to check my buzzing phone. Before I know it, 20 minutes have gone by. I like to tell myself that I’m not one of these people who rely on technology, but that’s nearly impossible today. Believe it or not, half my day is spent on this iPad. With this Covid-19 year of college, I’ve spent more time doing online school than I have talking with other people and making friends as a student, and that is really disappointing. We are isolated. We are so drawn to our phones that we find it nerveracking to talk to others in person. My parents tell me all of these stories about how they would go knock on each other’s doors to ask to hang out. Imagine having to actually get up and walk to your friends, just to find out they are busy?
Without a doubt our cell phones are helpful. We use them to communicate and for school, but in reality we need to educate ourselves more about their negative aspects. In class, we read about technology and its connection to depression, anxiety and suicide among Gen Z teens. According to Professor Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University, teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide. This is just one of the scary statistics related to this issue. Kids are becoming used to feeling excluded and left out because of experiences with technology. These feelings have a direct correlation to the nasty effects of this way of life. Twenge also states that boys’ depressive symptoms increased by 21 percent from 2012 to 2015, while for girls the increase was 50 percent. Yes, that’s more than twice as much, just in the last three years. The scariest part is that this surge in technology and its obsessions are not slowing down, only getting worse. This generation is the prime example of how we fall under pressure and get stuck there without using our voices.
Most teens don’t think this can happen to them, but they could be sitting there alone, isolated, sad and thinking about why your post has more likes than your friends, getting down on yourself because of it. We need to live more in the moment and find happiness without phones, tablets and other technology. But, it’s more easily said than done. Somehow our lives and reputations rely on our social media status. People in my life, including family, have had very bad experiences with technology: friends who have become suicidal because of cyberbullying. I can’t believe that we’ve gotten to a point where a device can be so closely correlated to a decision about life or death.
There needs to be a line drawn; there needs to be change. The ways in which teens use phones and interact on social media needs to be changed in order to prevent an even greater problem. Teens are the future of our world. All of the “likes” and “follows” shouldn’t be worth the risk.
If you weren’t aware of the changes that technology is making in our lives, I hope you now are. We need to create awareness and use these tools for our benefit and not our downfall. We need to be the generation that has proved the nasty side of technology wrong. We need to learn to use it to find the benefits in these blessings and love each other in the process.
I hope you are doing well, future Anthony. I hope you haven’t fallen to the pressures. Be the change!