Don’t Become a Casualty of #GenerationLonely

#MeanScreens can steal your time, your money, and, potentially, your future.

Posted Sep 12, 2018

Anyone with a cellphone, tablet, or laptop is virtually able to connect with others around the globe. Once these devices are placed in the hands of our youngest citizens, we created a communication web that no longer relied on people having to "show up and participate." Online courses allow students (of all ages!) to hang out in their homes connecting in wire-free and carefree. Online social media networking and online gaming provide opportunities for connecting and interacting, but never having to learn how to engage face-to-face. These developments have resulted in a community that bears some resemblance to prior generations, but is just enough different that we need to re-think expectations and precautions for engagement with others.

  • Communications technology was developed to bridge gaps not create a walled fortress. If you spend all of your free time being “broad banded” to friends “back home,” you’ll miss out on the “college experience” that you showed up on campus to enjoy!
  • Don’t post all of your personal “drama” for others to see. Whether it’s loneliness, heartbreak, or homesickness, whatever – it might not be just your besties who swoop in with messages of support. You’re potentially inviting strangers into your virtual world who may tell you they care about you and want to make you feel better, but actually be imposters who want to do you harm.
  • Research shows that the more time you spend on social networking (read “comparison”) sites, the more likely you are to feel symptoms of depression and be bummed about your own life. Remember, social media is designed as a platform where people “play a role” and try their best to make their life BIGGER than life-size. It’s all a game and when you stop feeling sorry for your own “life-size” existence, you’ll realize that doing life is a lot more fun than just watching others “pretend” to do life.
  • Technology is an ironically isolating method of staying connected to others. Yet screen images and “can you hear me now” conversations should not be the only way that people connect. Don’t be the person who hides behind a screen and miss out on meeting the kinds of people that would never post in your fan fiction group, show up in your old neighborhood stomping grounds, or swipe right on your profile photo. Show up at campus events, ask your new classmates questions about assignments or the lecture content, and be willing to make the first face-to-face conversational gambit even when everyone else is being mesmerized by the tiny screen in their hand or lulled into isolation by the earbuds in their ears.

Safety-Related Guidelines

  • Safety should be a number one, “don’t even have to think about it” priority. You’ve been raised with the reminder, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Add to that mantra, “Don’t share personal information with people you haven’t yet met in person.”
  • IP addresses can be tracked. Cellphone location services can be hacked. It’s not good enough to just be aware of your surroundings – you have to be aware of to whom you’re potentially unknowingly giving information about your surroundings.
  • If you’re new to the community, ask longtime residents if a potential “meet-up place” is safe. Don’t show up somewhere you’ve never been before to meet someone you’ve never met before.
  • There’s a saying that a picture’s worth a thousand words. If that’s a picture of you without your clothing, on the World Wide Web, that photo might end up costing you career opportunities down the road as well as end relationships in the present. You can never take back a digital image that’s been shared.
  • Be careful what you store in your phone as well as super aware of where you put down your phone. Identity theft is a real thing and a real threat – no matter what your age or what you’re earning. A stole identity can cause headaches across the board. If you don't password protect your phone, thieves and less than honest friends may steal access to private information -- if you leave private information easily accessible on your phone, you’re risking a lot.

In the Classroom, Engage with the Content, Instructor, and Classmates

  • Research shows that the more reliant that young, still developing brains become on educational hardware, the softer their academic skills become. If you spend your time in some kind of “passive techno learning” fugue state, staring at your online textbooks or surfing Wikipedia for “facts,” you may memorize a few facts or formulas, but if you don’t take time to engage in discussion or problem-solving practice, true learning won’t take place.
  • Taking notes on your laptop in class may seem like a positive way to gather information, but if you don’t hand-write those notes later on, you might not actually “assimilate” or take in that information your instructor felt was worth spending time sharing in class
  • Most everyone knows that some college classes are less “inspiring” than others, but if you’re furtively texting, shopping, gaming, or swiping while the professor is talking, you’re wasting tuition dollars and letting your profs off the hook for challenging you the way that they should be.

Future Career Opportunities

  • Twitter rants may leave you feeling righteous or satisfied in the moment, but even if second thoughts lead you to delete it, there’s no guarantee that a screenshot hasn’t already been taken and passed on to others.
  • Profanity or “swear words” are a lot more common in everyday conversation today, for sure. Unfortunately, while they may be your native dialect when you’re with friends and family, those ALL CAPS profanity-laced online posts may come back to bite you on the a$$ when you’re trying to come across as a future professional colleague at interviews, professional conferences, and other settings where words matter. Regardless of the amount of profanity a person may tend to use, when it comes to judging others, profanity will negatively influence their perceptions of a person.
  • Remember that anything digital is virtually immortal. Don’t let anything even vaguely suggestive of engagement in immoral activities turn immortal. That’s a monumental problem. You need to guard your future professional reputation starting in the present. Those “look how stupid I could be back then!” pics can turn from ironic to catastrophic over the next few years.