The most interconnected yet disconnected generation

LUCY KNOWLES / AGGIE

Millennials are the most stressed-out, sleep-deprived and preoccupied generation in history

How human beings connect with one another is what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. However, there is enough evidence to suggest that humans are heading in the wrong direction when it comes to interpersonal communication, and it’s solely the Millennial generation that may be to blame.

The most influential, prominent, successful and domineering generation may be the most socially inept of all. This isn’t a surprise. The world has watched as this young generation has become more and more zombified through smartphones, tablets, laptops and television. The baby boomers would be disappointed in a generation that holds the key to the world’s future, yet at the same time, stops to take a picture of the key for their Snapchat story (which will disappear 24 hours later).

It’s incredibly ironic, really, that a generation that essentially created its own country in Silicon Valley founded on wealth, technology and intelligence finds itself unable to organically create romantic relationships, or even friendships, as well as preceding generations. Those who masterfully pioneered the country’s World Wide Web and the networks administering them can’t even pick up a newspaper, or strike up a conversation with the opposite sex or a stranger. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Bumble, Tinder, OkCupid, Myspace, Spotify and several other social media apps have severely stifled a natural skill vital for everyday life: the human connection.

We live in a world today where college students have to monitor and caution themselves against pedestrian traffic. Yes, I said “pedestrian traffic” — mainly because there are those individuals so focused on the next text message, Facebook post, Snapchat story or recent Instagram picture that they are completely oblivious to the world around them. They expect their surroundings to adapt to them and for people to weave around them on the sidewalk because their order from Amazon just arrived. Millennials have a lot of strengths, and surely much to be proud of, but it’s the embarrassing and very evident weakness of their human connections that should frighten them about their future.

Only in the 21st century are we discussing what screen addiction is and how to combat it. Previous generations may have had to deal with post-traumatic stress syndrome after World War II, the addiction to narcotics and hallucinogens in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but Millennials today have difficulty connecting with one another face to face because they’re battling “screen addiction.”

We must begin to ask ourselves if the Millennial generation has reached a point of no return, if they’ve drifted too far into the realm of their own virtual reality. Some argue that it’s not too late for the Silicon Valley kids to make a change for the better. Lessons can be learned from older generations if we analyze how they spend their free time vs. how Millennials spend their free time — and any other points of separation.

What about college students? The hot bed for sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, right? Not so fast — we’re talking about the most stressed-out, sleep-deprived and preoccupied generation in history. Sure, all that fun stuff is still happening on college campuses, but not nearly as much as prior generations. Some would ask, “Isn’t that a good thing?” Not quite. We already know that most college students are enjoying themselves and having fun when they drink, smoke or have sex in a responsible and safe manner. Those things are expected simply because they lower stress levels, allow students to relax and, most importantly, allow students to connect with each other in natural, organic ways, which this generation seems to have almost lost.

What’s the solution to this dilemma? How does this young generation get back on its feet and get their eyes off the screen? Put down the tablet, and pick up a book. Instead of exploring Yosemite National Park in the newest version of virtual reality, plan a weekend trip with some friends and drive down there. Stop crafting your resume, and start writing a personal journal. Maybe even write a letter on actual paper. Don’t worry — the trees will be fine. Millennials must find a way to break their bad habits and get out in the world and make a difference by engaging in the oldest form of communication: human to human interaction.

 

Written by: Brody Fernandez — bwfernandez@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.

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