Have you or your friends, siblings, parents, or anyone you know ever been so dominated by your own online life that you no longer want to interact with the outside world because all you want is right then and there in front of you? The answer is probably yes because everyone has experienced this at least once in their lives, but have you thought about the consequences this brings in the long term, such as in your maturation?
In the essay ‘Screen Time’ by Mark Bauerlein, he discusses the consequences that arise from young generations’ obsession with online life, specifically in their maturity. This obsession causes the young generations to be “wrapped up in a generational cocoon” and “when the gifts only lead to social joys, not intellectual labor, the minds of the young plateau at age 18”. Young people tend to enjoy their online life way too much so that they are no longer gaining knowledge and developing their mental capacity, causing them to get ‘trapped’ or ‘stuck’ in their own generation. Maturity is prevented by online life because it encourages more horizontal modeling, where youth are not looking up to others who are older and more experienced than them, but rather looking ‘up’ to those who are in the same position as them, a wise generation. According to Mark Bauerlein, this causes them to be in a “...a reflexive surrounding…a ‘Daily Me’”, where “the screen becomes not a vein of truth but a mirror of desire”. On their screens, young generations see what they have planned to show themselves, whether it be a certain type of news, games, posts, music, etc., not what is shown to them by default. The consequence of this is that their reality is personalized, where their horizon ends with their friends, music, TV shows, games, and virtual contacts. They put reality and the real world on ‘hold’, such as world news, and only see what is convenient to them, what they enjoy and like the most. In the long run, all of this ends with younger generations being intellectually handicapped, where the rewards are immediate and the intellectual and social barriers are low, youth become trapped in their screens and their generations, so that they can no longer expand their mental capacity or horizon. All of these reasons are what Bauerlein speaks about in terms of online life preventing younger generations’ maturity.
As Bauerlein convincingly states, I believe that the younger generations’ obsession with online life prevents maturity because this obsession causes them to not want to confront the real world beyond their concern and intellect.
To begin, I agree with Bauerlein that this obsession with online life prevents maturity because young generations don’t learn how to celebrate the joy of others since they instead turn to envy or criticism. By being too much time online and on social media, young generations are able to see the accomplishments of others in school, work, etc. One example was in high school during the time of college applications and acceptances. This time was very hectic and chaotic because everyone worried about where they would get accepted and rejected. Some students in my school decided to turn to social media to post their successes of getting into the college they had dreamed of or one of their top choices. In one class, I once heard a girl say, “She thinks she’s all that just because she got accepted to that college”. This girl immediately turned to judge and criticize rather than saying “congratulations” and celebrating the other person’s success. Having too much time online on social media and seeing what other people were posting about their accomplishments was not contributing to her maturity because instead of celebrating others, she was learning to envy and criticize. She was not learning how to encourage others and bring others up because since this accomplishment wasn’t hers, it didn’t matter. Her attitude toward others and their successes was selfish because she wasn’t learning to recognize that she was not the only person in the world who accomplished things. Too much online life causes young generations to not mature since they don’t learn how to let go of that selfishness and instead be supportive of others.
Furthermore, I also agree with Bauerlein’s claims because due to the exorbitant amount of time online, young generations essentially personalize their reality so that they are no longer aware of other perspectives, “...adult realities of history, politics... can wait”. One example is one of my friends who, because of the superfluous amount of time online, was beginning to not be attentive in terms of politics because that was of no importance in her world. On her phone there would be no type of news at all because that was not in her reality, causing her to not be aware of what was going on in the political world. Of course, she knew who the president was, but she wasn’t aware of what was being said in terms of immigration, climate change, education, etc. She didn’t know what the president was saying about immigration and immigrants, which was something that would directly affect her and her family, and she would have never even heard about it because that wasn’t on her screen. Since she wasn’t aware of other perspectives like the presidents, she couldn’t recognize that everyone has different opinions that she wouldn’t always agree on. She wouldn’t be able to learn how to respect other perspectives and not judge or insist that she is correct all the time since she wasn’t even listening to anything different, just herself. She didn’t learn about different opinions that existed because only her opinions were in her world and online life. Because of this, she was also not learning that at one point she would have to stand up for others and even herself. At one point in politics, possibly the elections, she would have to vote and stand up for justice, even if it wasn’t directly affecting her or it wouldn’t benefit her. Not being aware of other perspectives through online life prevents maturity, as young generations don’t learn to respect other people’s opinions and the fact that they themselves are not always correct. This doesn’t allow them to learn that at one point they will have to think about others rather than themselves by fighting for justice and working together, even if it is not directly affecting them.
Additionally, I agree with Bauerlien’s claims about online life preventing maturity because, through horizontal modeling that it encourages, young generations don’t receive vertical modeling, causing them not to learn important values in a ‘correct’ way. I have seen responsibility being portrayed differently through vertical and horizontal modeling, affecting my maturity since they offer totally different guidance. One specific aspect of responsibility I was able to learn through vertical modeling is being on time. Through vertical modeling, being on time was taught to me by my mom. Since she was someone who was older than me and had mature views and interests, she was able to teach me that being on time didn’t just revolve around me. Through her, I was able to learn that I would have to prioritize others before myself because I would have to take into consideration their time and schedules. I learned to recognize the fact that whether I was on time or late, would really mess up someone’s entire day because they already had their plans. When planning my schedule, I now have to think about others and their time, not mine. By learning to be responsible through vertical modeling with my mom, she was able to teach me that it’s important to be on time because it revolves around prioritizing others rather than yourself. In horizontal modeling, however, responsibility and being on time are portrayed in a totally different way. Through social media platforms, young generations are observed getting to class late, skipping class, or even ditching. By posting this on social media, young generations influence each other to not be on time because it is ‘fun’ or ‘cool’. Being too much time online causes young generations to want to experience this being late to and skipping class because they see their peers having ‘fun’ and acting ‘cool’. This then prevents them from maturing because the horizontal modeling that they are being ‘taught’ by doesn’t teach them the importance of taking others’ time into consideration. Horizontal modeling encouraged by online life prevents maturity because young generations don’t learn that it’s important to prioritize others before themselves since all they see is their peers being late and not caring about others’ time.
Overall, maturity consists of many characteristics, mainly recognizing the fact that sometimes you have to put others before yourself, even if it doesn’t benefit you. Also, that everything is not just revolved around yourself, and that others exist as well. Through online life, young generations don’t learn to think about others because everything is personalized so they only see what they want and like. Due to the obsession young generations hold with their online life, this development of maturity is hard to carry out since these young ones only see what is in their interest. In this case, there is no one to blame, not parents, not the young generations, not even technology itself, because we are the ones who are making use of it, not it making use of us, which is what it seems like. Like anything too much is bad and has its consequences. Young generations, maturity, and this online life that impedes their maturity should seriously be balanced out because no one wants their kids, siblings, or even oneself to be captivated by this powerful thing called technology and in the end become intellectually handicapped.