“Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” by author Jean M. Twenge explores the idea that modern technological devices have left children feeling more lonely and depressed than ever before. Twenge displays various trends linked to cell phone use, such as increased depression and suicidal tendencies, less face-to-face interaction, less emphasis on independence, and less teen sexual activity.
Throughout the article, Twenge compares the “iGen,” as she calls it, to both the children of the 1990s and to her own generation. Twenge’s findings relate to the idea of a paradigm shift, or a large cultural and ideological change over time. When Twenge was growing up, face-to-face interaction was far more common than it is now, as she recalls hanging out with her friends for several hours nearly every day. In contrast, society has seemingly evolved to exist entirely around devices, and face-to-face interaction is at an all-time low.
This lack of personal interaction, supplemented by extreme virtual interaction, has led to today’s teens becoming more depressed than ever before. This represents a paradigm shift because it marks an extreme ideological change that occurred in society: the shift from interpersonal experience to virtual existence.
Twenge also makes the point that generational changes themselves are representations of paradigm shifts. Because she’s seen such a severe change in modern society, Twenge has created a new generation to correspond to this shift, called the “iGen.” The iGen represents the generation that has grown up almost entirely around smart devices, and can scarcely remember a time when they did not exist.
Furthermore, one could argue that Twenge’s awareness of this issue could itself be labeled a paradigm shift, as previously very few people thought about the negative ramifications of smart devices. Smartphones and computers are such revolutionary inventions that have done so much good for the world that people rarely think about their negative aspects, and Twenge’s article marks a cultural shift that is causing people to think more critically about their time spent online. Twenge’s article poses very insightful questions about these negative components of smart devices, and works to ensure that people think more deeply about letting their children use technology in the future.