iPhone Therefore iAm
RENE always looked forward to winter nights. These were sacred moments when he could silently warm himself before a fireplace which cradled the gentle crackling of pine scented logs. This atmosphere could afford him deeper insights into his soul-awakening cry: cogito ergo sum!
Suddenly, Francine his daughter (though Descartes claims she is only his niece), barges into his study!
“Daddy, daddy!” The nearly five-year old girl excitedly saddled up to her father’s lap.
“Yes, dearest Francine? What wonderful things do you wish to tell daddy?”
“I just had a wonderful idea!”
“And what would that be?”
“iPhone, therefore iAm!”
* * *
At this affirmation, Descartes would have been naturally proud that Francine had inherited some of his philosophical genes. As a father, however, he may begin to worry that his daughter’s revelation poses a serious problem and challenge for many parents today.
Jean M. Twenge, in her 25 years dedicated to generational differences, revealed the alarming trend of iGen who are easily exposed to a crisis in their mental-health. She observed that although her own generation and the so-called Millennials grew up with the web, it wasn’t something always in their lives, that is, in their hands day and night.
“The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone. (Jean M. Twenge, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation”, The Atlantic, September 2017)”
Living their lives on their smartphone isn’t a life! Twenge reflects how today’s youth are much safer, have a more comfortable lifestyle, and a greater capacity to communicate to more people. But communication is concentrated in the Internet and social media, and this contributes to greater isolation from the real world and people.
Twenge stressed how studies revealed a strong co-relation between screentime and unhappiness: “Teens who spend more time in screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy. (Ibid.)”
This plague of unhappiness caused by their digital auto-isolation is manifested by the gradual and alarming rise of depression, suicide rates, and even less dating. Surprisingly, Twenge noted how teenagers today are no longer excited about getting a driver’s license since they don’t really see any point in getting one.
What advice does Twenge give to help today’s iGen? “Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen. (Ibid.)” Simple this advice may sound, it may not be easy for many iGens to apply it to their heavily digitalized lives. They would need constant support and encouragement from parents and peers to help them live a life and not lose it in cyber-isolation.
It may help to have parents and guardians constantly reinforce the following ideas and practices to help many of their iGen children:
- You’re more valuable than your phone.
- People are more important than phones.
- Family time before screentime
- Connect with a smile not a click.
- Give a hand not a like.
- Send real love not emoticons.
- Share yourself not a selfie.
Naturally, these examples and many more, will only render meaningful results to iGen if parents and teachers take the first steps to live up to these humanizing standards that help build family and social relationships.