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The First Digitally Socialized Population

Think about it. 

The year was 2007. Facebook was exploding as a new way to “connect” and communicate, not only to your friends and family – but, to be seen and heard by the world. How enticing! Middle school kids were getting their first flip phones, texting beyond the limits of the family plan, and shocking their parents with that first bill.

Within a couple of years – the unlimited texting plan became the norm along with unlimited distractions, not to mention, a new obsession. Communicating whenever you wanted, without a cost. 

Or so we thought at the time.

The first digitally socialized population, the teens and young adults of today, are keenly aware of the unintended consequences of the digital revolution. They feel trapped by the digital demands on them from their friends, romances, teachers, bosses, and parents.

As humans, we are inherently wired with an intense “need to belong” desire. Social media developers have exploited this inherent trait weaving emotionally charged words such as “like,” and “share” into the vulnerable user experience to make us “feel” accepted and validated, getting us hooked on the emotional connection, and, as humans, emotions outweigh our logic.

An entire population has grown up digitally tethered to one another, expected to jump and react to every text or post – or face the backlash of not responding and the fear of compromising that relationship. The behavior appears tech-driven, but, at our core, we are all emotionally driven.

It might look like young people adapted easily to being ‘digital natives,’ but, when the conversation gets to the deeper layer, what I am hearing is they “didn’t ask for this” and “they don’t want it.”

by Joni Siani, M.Ed., Psychology

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

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