The Digital Liberation of College Students



The truth is, the natives are restless and they want out.


“I don’t want to rely on something else.” “I want to be comfortable being by myself.” Taylor O’Malley, Celling Your Soul


Today’s college students and graduates, who are our young new workforce, are the first digitally socialized generation. When they were going through their challenging middle and high school years, the entire world was going through a communication revolution. 


The “connection industry” was exploding as protocols of human interaction were blowing up. At a critical time in human development, when, through the communication process with other people - we grow autonomously, improve our soft-skill, such as being able to spontaneously speak face-to-face, read people’s emotions in order to respond and react accordingly, feel comfortable in social situations - customary interpersonal communication models took a back seat to screen interactions leaving this vulnerable population to their own “devices.” 



Starting about a decade ago in my communication classes, I changed the conversation with my students from “what do you think about our new digital communications to how do you feel. When you use the word “think,” you get an “analytical” response. However, when you use the word “feel,” you get an emotional response.  Typical answers include:


 “I know I’m addicted, but I can’t stop” 


“I don’t know why I have a need to know what everyone is doing all the time”


 “I don’t feel comfortable speaking to someone face-to-face so I will leave them and go text them what I wanted to say,” 


“I get anxious, I have to use my phone to fall asleep.”


The tradeoff of being tech-savvy comes at the cost of increased anxiety, addictive behavior, mesmerizing hours of ‘scrolling to sleep,’ issues with intimacy, and, ironically, an epidemic of loneliness.


Is it any wonder we have a population more stressed out, more dependent on their devices, frustrated with their awkward social skills and a lack of confidence in interpersonal communication? High school and college students may just be ready to lead the digital backlash.


The digitally socialized population was indoctrinated with the idea that they need some external thing to feel connected to others. 


by Joni Siani, M.Ed., Psychology

 Assist. Professor, Communications and Media, Manhattanville College, NY



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