Ahh, ‘millennials,’ how they do confound us all. Pretty much anyone born after 1990, has never known a life without the Internet, cell phones or virtual reality gadgets. And, some say, that’s precisely the problem, as we seem to be losing our humanity.
Those among us who grew up in the age of instant communications simply can’t imagine living without a Smartphone, tablet or other electronic gadget — and, therein lies the dilemma. Millennia’s, born into a world that was already verging on an unhealthy obsession with technology, are paying the price.
There was a time when people actually interacted with each other – a time when kids played outside, ran, jumped, skipped and, used their imagination to create fun.
In the age of technology mania, that good ole’ fashioned kind of fun is disappearing and ‘play time’ now means playing video games for countless hours. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Skype have replaced real face-to-face interaction. There is a palpable fear that the millennial and future generations are losing their humanity, because they simply can’t grasp the concept of genuine, direct human interaction. For them, life is experienced remotely and through a device — how can they ever fully grasp true inter-personal relationships, if they’re detached and experiencing life through cyberspace?
Distresslingly, it’s not just millennials — people of all ages and walks of life have become addicted to their smart phones and tablets. These technologies have become so all-consuming, people are actually developing tangible symptoms of addiction. When they’re not online, they’re thinking and stressing about being online and some addicts even stay up all night, glued to a computer screen, causing sleep deprivation and stress attacks.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, evidently sees the problem too — and considering that the company he runs creates much of this technology, it speaks to the magnitude of the problem.
In his commencement address to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology class of 2017, Tim revealed just how concerned he is.
Urging the class to “use your powers for good,” he told the graduates:
“Whatever you do in your life, and whatever we do at Apple, we must infuse it with the humanity that we are born with. That responsibility is immense. But so is the opportunity. Science is worthless if it isn’t motivated by basic human values and the desire to help people.”
Mr. Cook added: “I’m more concerned about people thinking like computers without values or compassion or concern for the consequences. That is what we need you to help us guard against. Because if science is a search in the darkness, then the humanities are a candle that shows us where we have been and the danger that lies ahead.”
Taking a cue from the current climate of hostility that is found online, Cook also urged graduates to resist becoming cynical:
“The internet enabled so much and empowered so many, but it can also be a place where basic rules of decency are suspended and pettiness and negativity thrive. Don’t let that noise knock you off course. Don’t get caught up in the trivial aspects of life. Don’t listen to trolls, and don’t become one. Measure impact in humanity; not in the likes, but the lives you touch and the people you serve.”
Out to dinner not too long ago, we witnessed a family of 6 at the table next to us — they entered with heads down, eyes glued to smart phones and they remained this way throughout dinner. Even their youngest, who looked to be about 4, was glued to a kid-style tablet. Interaction? Barely any – they sat in silence, eyes fixated on a screen, not even looking at the food they were eating. There was barely a word spoken among them. I don’t judge, but it left me feeling sad and a bit frightened for the future.
Life will never happen via cyberspace and the sooner people accept this, the sooner we will regain the humanity we’re all born with.