Jun 27, 2017

Unplugging the Internet Generation

By Lori Draz and Taylor Cruz

Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month, our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents on a variety of topics. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry – let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is Rumson’s Taylor Cruz, an 18-year-old senior at Ranney School. Taylor is a member of the International Thespian Honor Society as well as an admissions ambassador. She is the dance captain of her competitive dance team at Dance Plus in Little Silver, and a teaching assistant and mentor to young dancers. She also has a passion for acting, singing, and playing the piano. In all ways, Taylor communicates her joyful spirit to everyone, yet in this essay, she challenges young people to go “old school” and actually focus on the joys of talking with people and engaging in the moments of life. Here is Taylor’s story:

“While enjoying lunch with my mom at our favorite eatery, something struck me. At least one person at every other table was on their cell phone. I quickly tucked my phone away to have a conversation with my mother, and I couldn’t help but think about how we have changed as a society and how social media and technology dominate our lives. The simple act of communicating through conversation or writing has become a lost art.

Although many adults believe that all kids of the “internet generation” are addicted to their cellphones, I find this accusation to be false. Many of my friends consciously put their phones away when hanging out with one another. I often go for hours without even looking at my phone in an effort to disconnect. I have become increasingly aware of the time I spend checking my phone and have also taken notice of the cellphone habits of others. Often, adults are just as guilty of poor technology etiquette as younger people.

As our meal went on, a couple sat down beside us. Within 30 seconds, the man was nervously checking his cellphone. As he typed away, lost in his texting, he almost seemed to be sitting by himself. The woman seated across from him sat in bored silence. After a few awkward moments, she, too, proceeded to disengage by looking at her own phone. The two of them sat together, separated by only two feet, but barely exchanging a glance. Trying to concentrate on my mom, but keeping a close eye on this couple, I noticed they never shared a word throughout the entire meal; not even a simple “Can you pass the salt?” They texted and played games during their entire 90-minute lunch. Sadly enough, neither one seemed to care.

It got me thinking about how we communicate. We crave instant gratification and instantaneous contact. The spoken word is a dying form of communication. It is no longer commonplace in today’s day and age to call (not text) someone or to even chat with the people sitting right across from you. People from as young as three years old to grown adults are engrossed in their cells, tablets, and laptops. Some of my friends cannot even use the bathroom or go to sleep without having their phones resting next to them. Although texting and emailing does serve a purpose, nothing will ever compare to having a live, physical conversation with someone. Furthermore, digital communication does not accurately reveal emotion and makes it too easy for meanings to be misinterpreted. This style of “talking” can lead to misunderstandings and relationship problems – not to mention the danger texting poses to distracted driving.

While there are positives to having a cellphone always by your side, it is important to recognize that our phones should only be used to help us communicate, not replace our physical interactions with one another. When I go out for family dinners, I now leave my phone at home and ask my siblings and parents to do the same. It is so important to me to share honest conversations with my family without my phone alerting me that someone “liked” or retweeted my post. Even when hanging out with friends, I make a conscious effort to leave my phone at home or shut it off. I value spending quality time with the people I care about, and find that technology only disrupts our face-to-face interaction. I have learned that the most important person is the one standing or sitting right next to me. The people in our presence deserve our full respect and undivided attention.

Replacing time spent with someone in the present moment with our phones is not healthy and will never be as valuable as engaging in a physical conversation. Although my generation has been a force to strengthen social media and contact with other individuals, I believe ours can also be the generation to cut down on phone usage and focus on more important things. Adults, remember not all teenagers are constantly consumed with their phones and whatever is happening wherever they are not. I enjoy living in the present because the future can stress me out. The next time you sit down for a meal with your family or friends, try putting your phones away so you can share meaningful time together. You may be surprised to find it will build stronger relationships and be a better use of everyone’s time.”