Opinion: A digital generation | The article

What happens when work, education and social activities all migrate to an online platform? Has convenience gone too far?
Kaylin Atkinson/THE REVIEW

BY
Development agent

Over the past few years, I have noticed that parts of my life have drifted into the void of the internet and my dream of escaping to the desert has only grown stronger. I’m sure others have also watched the broken relationships, missed opportunities, and awful silence of it all.

This year’s senior graduates have spent nearly half of their college years taking online courses, and many will join an all-digital workforce upon graduation. According to data scientists at Ladders, 25% of professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and that percentage will only continue to rise.

The pandemic has been just the spark for a bigger societal shift online.

The seniors I’ve spoken with who are considering pursuing remote online jobs are right, they’re convenient. As many of us experienced during the shutdowns at the start of the pandemic, it is nice to work from the comfort of home. There are also remote work opportunities that would not accompany any in-person work; for example, with the appearance of “digital nomad” specifications in various countries, one could potentially travel the world while working and earning an income. These policies allow temporary residence in a foreign country provided the resident is working remotely online. Moreover, with the development of automated technology and artificial intelligence, the question arises: do we all really need to work in person?

All that aside, I’m writing to warn you not to go overboard in our quest for a digital world. The workplace is probably the next area to fall into the internet vacuum. Yes, of course, working remotely and online has its benefits, but I would argue that the risks are far more harmful.

What happens when work, education and social activities all migrate to an online platform? Has convenience gone too far?

The generation that makes up the majority of the university’s student population has grown up with the internet, and it has permeated almost every aspect of our lives. We use it to communicate with friends, teachers and employers; we use it for entertainment; we use it as a working platform; this list goes on.

What has become clear throughout the pandemic is that spending our lives behind a screen is detrimental to our well-being.

In March and April 2021, the American Psychological Association conducted a survey of 1,000 remote workers and found that the majority of these workers experienced negative mental health effects, such as isolation and loneliness.

Remote work itself is not the problem; it is a lack of socialization. Often, social interaction is a feature of the workplace that can disappear when that workplace is moved to a remote online environment. And there is some authenticity lost as in-person interaction is limited.

According to a study by the PEW Research Center, 48% of people aged 18 to 29 use the Internet “almost constantly”, while 8% of people aged 65 and over say the same. This is our generation – defined by our missing experiences in a world without technology – and clearly, we’re addicted.

Jamie Mitus, associate professor at Hofstra University, said this “obsession with technology” can cause physical and social disorders such as depression, anxiety, repetitive movement disorder and sleep deprivation.

To my peers: if we continue to let the internet take pieces of our lives, one by one, our generation is destined for loneliness, blindness and inauthenticity. It’s up to us to decide where to draw the line.

This is not an argument against the Internet, it is a warning. Put down the smartphone, close the laptop screen and claim your humanity – even for a brief second – before it’s too late.

Kelsey Wagner is development officer for The Review. His opinions are his own and do not represent the majority opinion of The Review’s editorial staff. It can be attached to [email protected]