It’s a more and more common experience: you walk up to the counter in a store or fast food joint and the young person at the counter just stares at you blankly – no greeting, no effect, like a feral creature in its habitat, stunned with shock that you’ve appeared.
It’s a consequence of an “unsocial media” in an era of text, don’t talk.
Generation Z, those born between 1996 and 2010, will comprise 32 percent of the global population’s 7.7 billion in 2019, surpassing millennials, who will count for 31.5 percent.
This is the first generation whose connection to the world around them is principally defined by that small device they hold in their hand… the smart phone.
To them, a world without the Internet of Things, smart phones, Alexa and Virtual Reality, is a fantasy… a depiction of some fabricated reality in a B-rated science fiction movie where the main characters have to think for themselves, do their own math or put words together in a sentence.
This is also the first generation raised in the War on Terror and Panic of ’08 eras. Fear – fear of no money coming in, fear of a terrorist attack, fear that the institutions that bind their world will crumble before them – defines this generation.
Hiding in their devices is a good way to escape the uncertain world around them.
People born in the 1970s or earlier grew up talking with people; those born into the 1980s and later grew up in a deepening sea of telecommunications technology that let them get or give information how and when they want.
Communication through texting, Instagramming and other social media in a smartphone is safe and something they can control. In contrast, meeting and talking with people can be messy and stressful. So why bother?
A spring 2018 study by the independent, nonprofit Common Sense Media found that 35 percent of teens would rather text than talk face-to-face; the option of face time only garnered 32 percent.
Overall, more than two-thirds of Zers surveyed preferred remote communications of some kind – texting, e-mailing, social media, even old-fashioned phone calls – to meeting in person.
More than half of the respondents said that they take time away from people they’re with to use social media; 40 percent said their dedication to social media cuts into time they might otherwise spend with friends.
An earlier study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project and the University of Michigan discovered that more than half of teens send at least 50 texts a day, with a significant minority sending twice that.
A Los Angeles high-school teacher told the Pew researchers that the deeper students become immersed in texting, the worse their spelling and grammar become – typing “2” for “to” and “u” for “you” to speed up keyboarding – and the more awkward they become in person-to-person meetings. She added that students will text her asking for a deadline extension for a project but won’t talk with her about it in person.
TEXT, DON’T TALK
In Pew focus groups, teens admitted relying on texting to avoid difficult or confrontational conversations.
The reason is partly biological. The brain’s prefrontal cortex is the area that recognizes and interprets other people’s emotions, but it wires itself slowly and doesn’t fully develop until a person’s early 20s. If we’re not exercising that ability as we move through adolescence, the ability to empathize and socialize could become stunted.
Social awkwardness can lead to isolation – one factor behind increases in teen depression (up 33 percent) and suicide attempts (up 23 percent) from 2010 to 2015.
A study done by researchers at San Diego State University found that the increase was consistent across races, regions, and economic classes. The researchers traced these appalling numbers to the rise of smartphones and social media in the hands of teens.
Social human interaction will decrease with the post-Gen Z generation. Today’s toddlers are already addicted to the Internet Of Things. Go to any public setting and observe toddlers and their parents… all glued to their handhelds.TJ
What will define this generation is its over reliance on digital communication, missing opportunities for self-expression, creative thinking and collaborative endeavors that emerge from human dynamics and interaction.
A stunning characteristic of this generation, as concluded by Mark Griffith, a professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, who was among the first to call excessive cell phone use an addiction, . is that many Gen Zers identify their smartphone as the “most important thing in their life.”
A student of the Renaissance, and other periods of great societal rebirth, knows that art and science maintained a nurturing balance to ignite transformative energies. But the enclosed, deeply introverted and digitally locked world Zers grew up in, has limited their ability to think creatively outside the digital sphere.