Have smartphones destroyed a generation?

Written on 26 Oct 2017

Ok, I really don’t want to alarm you – but in trying recently to navigate my way along major shopping streets, I kept coming up behind and also facing slow moving, silent bodies with their heads down looking as though they were taking instructions from a hand-held device. Anyway, I couldn’t help but think of one of the zombie horror films which had seemingly similar slow moving, head-down characters. I’d bet that you have experienced the same on more than one occasion. Interestingly in moving through the same shopping horde, this was in marked contrast to the occasional smile and eye contact I had with others, not on their smart phones.

The situation again reminded me that whilst there are so many advantages in having these incredibly clever communication devices and mini-computers in our pockets, there can also be some significant downsides too, not least of which is the reduction in the number of actual close (non-social media) personal relationships with friends and family. Getting home I confess that I turned to the internet to find out more about such trends. Lots to read.

Particularly interesting is a recent book by American psychologist Jean Twenge which reviewed by Atlantic magazine used the alarmist headline: ““Have smartphones destroyed a generation?”. Now Twenge didn’t use this headline herself in her book but her long-term studies and research certainly highlighted huge and alarming shifts in the behaviours of young people empowered with smart phones – and in their resultant well-being (or lack of it!). In particular, her studies highlighted how “screen activities” resulted in lower levels of happiness whilst “non-screen” activities (in other words mixing socially/meeting with others, being outside and active, doing sports or similar) resulted in greater measures of happiness.

A teacher friend also recounted a recent school trip that he was part of to a major science institute. He was alarmed that a good proportion of the students who were allowed to take their phones on the trip spent most of the time on their phones (and in particular on social media websites) rather than actually experiencing the opportunity that the trip gave.

OK, I know that we can’t reinvent these devices and yes, of course they can be remarkably useful – but I can’t help but be concerned about the consequences of a generation living so predominantly in an online social media dominated world and prioritising that activity above all else – with a lot of research like Jean Twenge's showing that the outcome does not result in a happy world for that generation! So #tryswitchingoffyoursmartphoneforaday!

If you've been affected by the topic that I've covered in this blog post, and would like to discuss your feelings, you can leave a public comment below. Alternatively, if you'd like to communicate with me on a one-to-one basis about any issues you'd like to discuss further, you can either email me or call me on 07946 517967.