For many individuals before me, it may be hard to imagine how distracted our generation may be. We have become so obsessed with the things we post online or present to our peers; we live, “[d]istracted from distraction by distraction,” states famous poet T. S. Eliot. But the confusion often lies with those who do not understand our lifestyle; even 20 years ago, social media and the internet was even less readily available for teens
For those who grew up in a time when technology and digitalization was not popular, our obsession with the internet boggles their minds. A term once coined by Marc Prensky explains this phenomenon as the difference between Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. He explains that Digital Immigrants are individuals who have only just been introduced to technology and may never completely understand Generation Z’s obsession with their online presence as they did not grow up experiencing and observing that behavior. He explains that the lives of Digital Natives are quite different from Digital Immigrants as they have grown up in time where technology was all around them, from computers, to video games, to social media; students today are all “native speakers” of digital languages.
In addition to this conclusion, Prensky also observes the changes in students and education itself. Students have changed almost completely in how they learn; instead of being presented with ideas from a teacher, they receive a large portion of their knowledge from online sources or technology. This can also be seen through the amount of time students spend on technology rather than their studies.
In a recent study of the third period Media Studies class, it can be found that students spend double the amount of time in their week on social media than homework or studying.While this does exclude time spent in school, in some cases it may be assumed that time spent in school a week versus time spent on social media are synonymous. Some individuals even claim that they spend up to 4 or more hours a day on social media.This heightened presence on the internet further demonstrates how integrated technology is in the lives of this generation, further illustrating why we may be considered Digital Natives.
While technology has been able to advance many living conditions across the globe, one aspect of the internet and social media has become problematic in this new generation. This includes the distraction it causes, as stated previously, and the insincerity it causes with those around us. Students no longer interact with each other physically as much and are no longer honest with each other, which is only perpetuated through social media. This generation is able to edit, change and post only the best parts of themselves in order to please those around them.
This aspect of our lives may even be portrayed in the satirical television series, Black Mirror. One episode, in particular, may illustrate how obsessed we are with our online presence and how often we miss the actual events happening around us. In the episode, “Be Right Back”, Ash spends his days focusing primarily on social media, so much so that he and his girlfriend even have phone agreements to ensure they spend actual time with each other.
His obsessions with social media and his phone make it easy for him to miss out on the actual events occurring in his life, possibly leading to both his demise and resurrection. It can be seen in the episode that it does not matter where he is, his phone has become a daily part of his life. It may also be assumed that when getting into the car crash that took his life, he may have been on his phone during that time.
However negatively his phone and social media presence may have been interpreted, the person he presented on the internet allowed his girlfriend to once again come into contact with him in one way or another. After passing away, an alternative application is provided to Martha to aid in the grieving process, this application being a digital and online version of Ash with which she can speak to. This may even highlight how technology has attempted to benefit us however, still fails to do so as Martha is not satisfied with the digital version of Ash she receives. Since he is mostly based on his social media presence, Martha only receives the perfect Ash, no flaws or quirks she may have grown to love are there along with the memories they shared together. This is a commentary on how deceiving social media truly is and how obsessed we are with the idea that everyone has to like us. Because all Ash posted was his most flattering self, Martha never got to see the “real” Ash again.
Another example of how indulged Generation Z is in their technology and social media is through the “Like for Like” trend. In the past few years and with the rise of Instagram and Facebook more individuals have been bargaining with each other for popularity.
The whole concept of only liking someone else’s posts or pictures if they do so in return only perpetuates the idea of scratching each other’s back. This type of bargaining only exhibits insincerity more and encourages fake portrayals on social media for the purposes of pleasing others; individuals are no longer comfortable being their true authentic selves.
In addition to the “Like for Like” concept, the inability to showcase our true authentic selves on the internet is portrayed through a Black Mirror episode, “Nosedive.” In this episode, the majority of the world is obsessed with their online ratings, so much so that individuals have become segregated from one another based on the social classes developing from their ratings. Certain features for technology and necessities are only available for individuals with extremely high ratings, creating a bias against those that are authentic.
As seen in the above video clips, it seems as if individuals are only able to portray the things about themselves that please others. This is very telling for our generation as the idea of posting a no-filter picture is almost considered absurd. This generation has nosedived into a pool of insincerity and fakeness called social media and the only way to escape it is to rid oneself of it. Throughout my life, I have only ever had one Snapchat account, which was quickly deleted; social media was never really a part of my life. I used to grow up alongside my friends who had become obsessed with Instagram and Facebook, always complaining about how much time they spent on it. No matter how much they complained and how much time elapsed on a phone rather than with a friend in person, they never deleted it from their lives. However in-depth our obsession of social media has become,it can only be undone if we isolate ourselves from social media altogether. It is only then that we can truly express ourselves and be true and sincere with those around us. One last clip demonstrates Lacie’s loss of control and care for what others think of her once she has been stripped of her online identity. Lacie has been placed in jail for her outbursts at her ex-friend’s wedding after threatening someone with a knife because she could no longer take the insincerity present in her world. (STRONG LANGUAGE AHEAD)
Generation Z has a long way to go, and we can only begin to accept one another once we put down the devices and the technology, take off the masks we wear of falsity and be honest with each other and honest with ourselves.