You may have read the viral Atlantic article provocatively titled “Are smartphones destroying a generation?”.
If you haven’t, don’t.
Attention grabbing headlines of its kind might get a lot of click traffic, but its pessimistic stance offers a grim picture of millennial prospects, with no investigation into an alternative perspective. As Marvel taught us all, with great power comes great responsibility. Technology can be harnessed for either good or evil and the discussion surrounding it should explore the light as well as the dark.
The article - like many of its kind - proposes a question: what is the effect tech is having on the next generation of young adults? But the piece distorts statistics to support its preordained conclusion that technology is stunting our emotional and social development, and is somehow to blame for the perceived “mental health crisis”. Like so much pop-journalism of today, it shows a shallow, one-sided and simplified view.
We, as millennials, seem to be constantly told by the preceding generations what we are, and they rarely paint a flattering picture. Our obsession with technology is often said to be the source of our many failings. But these articles are just the black of B&W: just one side of an often polarised discussion surrounding young people and tech today.
So now I challenge you. Rather than sit back and grudgingly accept our fate as a horde of emotionally unequipped, like-obsessed balls of anxiety, let’s take our identity back into our hands. Undoubtedly, technology poses some problems, but instead of wallowing in negative statistics about degrading neural networks, let’s investigate ways tech developments can be utilized to our advantage.
Here are my favourite examples of innovators who are harnessing the power of tech for good:
1. Thrive Global
Ariana Huffington’s new brainchild has many branches. This labyrinthine enterprise has immediately shot to the forefront of the joy business: hosting apps, blogs, research projects and merchandise, all aimed to help you be happier, healthier and develop a better relationship with technology. The new THRIVE App shows Huffington partnering with Samsung to help us “set boundaries” with our tech: showing us that more tech can actually lead to less tech. Visit www.thriveglobal.com to explore.
This new piece of wearable tech monitors the users’ breathing - the rate and depth of breath - to analyze their anxiety levels. App notifications alert you when your physical self is in a state of tension you are approaching a state of tension or panic or approaching panic, and gives you breathing exercises to do to calm you down and stop you spiralling.
Facebook Messenger’s AI bot monitors your emotional patterns through daily check-ins to notice trends and correlations that are often missed by both human patient and human therapist. Woebot himself pointed me to Sanford research which suggests it can help de-escalate psychological patterns that don’t serve your and better your feeling of wellbeing in just two weeks.
There are many meditation apps out there, but this is definitely the best. It takes you through a three-part intro course to gain fundamental meditation skills, then grants you access to its comprehensive library of guided meditations that focus on anything from mindful eating to productivity.
Fed up of having your eyes glued to that little box of light in your hand? As content is increasingly moved to the tech sphere it seems there is no way to get your literary news than through a screen. Curio is helping to change that. It compiles articles from major news publications and reads it to you. Now you can stick in your headphones and listen to anything from the latest political news to cultural opinion pieces. Recordings range from five to forty minutes and they have an exceptionally handy genre system helping you to find content from all your favourite publications on the subject of your choice. Quit staring at your screen and look at a tree instead folks!
It all comes down to self-curation. We choose the people we hang out with, the places we go, the activities we do. We do this because we know ourselves: what makes us happy, sad or anxious. These apps help us to curate our own tech experience in a way that keeps us sane.
Of course I cannot give you a comprehensive analysis of the healthy technology curation - PhD pending - but what must be highlighted through these projects is that no, The Atlantic, technology isn’t destroying a generation. We do not live in a Philip K Dick-style dystopian nightmare and robots are not going to enslave the human race. There are many, very real, threats that new technologies pose to humankind, just are there are many, very real, threats that humankind poses to humankind. But we are greater than the sum of our fears and anxieties and the future can, in fact, be brighter and better. So don't let yourself be dragged into a fear-based inertia.
Written and illustrated by Karishma Warr