The past 18 months of the global pandemic has copper-fastened the expansion of the world of communications and technology by electronic means, taking it to an entirely new level. In a local hospital in Ennis, recently I had a conversation with a man in his 90’s who has over the past year or two embraced this world through the use of an electronic tablet and it has opened up new previously un-heard of vistas for him. A colleague who would regard herself as a committed luddite was reflecting on the range of inter-action she now has on a daily basis with her new found companion, Alexa and the difference it was making for her life.
We are becoming more and more dependent on technology and all it has to offer. If I were to count up the number of hours I spent on Teams or Zoom in the past year I’m sure it would be significant.
One of the key election issues in recent years has been the topic of the provision of broadband for all. A community is classified as disadvantaged if there isn’t access to quality broadband. In the past few years it is regarded as a given that high speed internet access is almost as essential as the air that we breath. Anyone who works in a hotel or residential centre at home or abroad will invariably tell you that the first and most important item visitors invariably enquire about is internet connection!
They say that statistics don’t lie. With that on mind, I often find it an informative eye-opener to review Screen Time on my smart phone to see firstly the time spent interacting with it and then to see the balance of time spent on Reading and Reference, Social Networking and/or Productivity based activities. Certainly food for thought!
I think most of us are aware that a quiet revolution has been slowly happening in relation to how we relate and interact. Since the availability of the internet in the 1990’s, the smart phone soon after and social media hot on its heels – more and more of our lives are spent in the realm of the virtual world in cyberspace. I am informed that average teenager checks his/her phone more than 80 times a day!
People of my generation, middle aged, being clasified as digital imigrants, not natives like the current young generation – are in a position to be able to view and experience that great transformation. But what of its effects?! Has it changed our lives for the good or to the bad?
The current young generation termed iGen’ers are the first generation, digital natives, so to speak to enter adolescence with smartphones already in their hands, a stark difference with wide ranging implications. We often nowadays have the experience of seeing several people gathered in a room intensely engaged with digital devices and no one communicating with person next to them…!
One of the most interesting studies I read in recent weeks is a book from an American author called Jean M. Twenge. The book title is quite a moutful and it runs: iGen – Why today’s super connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy and completely unprepared for adulthood and what that means for the rest of us!
In the book she lists the broad categorisation of the generations in recent decades follow the sequence; Generation X 1965-1979, Milenials 1980-1999, while iGen begins with those born from approximately 1995 onwards.
Twenge’s study identifies a number of important trends shaping iGen’ers that are interesting in helping us understand and name the change that is happening before our eyes. IGen’ers are in no hurry to grow up. They spend a lot of their time on line. They meet other people in person less and less. IGen’ersand more insecure and with them a sharp rise in mental health issues. They are more irreligious and there has been a shift from being spiritual and not religious to being no longer either religious nor spiritual. With this generation there has been a decline in involvement in anything of a social nature. They are more inclusive, with great acceptance, equaltiy and free speech is greatly valued. They are more independent than previous generations and they have new attitudes towards sex, relationships and children.
The I in iGen is not the only change shaping this generation. The i in iGen represents the individualism its members take for granted, a broad trend that grounds their bedrock sense of equality as well as their rejection of traditional social rules.
As Bob Dylan reminds us the times are truly changing. It remains to be seen where this revolutionary change will bring us in relation to how we interact with each other and with technology and who will be the servant and who will be the master in years to come?!
Fintan Monahan is bishop of Killaloe – Clare Champion Article 23rd of July 2021