Today’s youth, dubbed Millennials or Generation X, are the generation that has grown up exposed to technology and its charms (between 1980 and the early 2000s.) According to a study published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology the millennial generation has been called ‘more civically and politically disengaged, more focused on materialistic values, and less concerned about helping the larger community’. When considering the younger generation and how it spends its free time, this doesn’t seem like such an unfair assertion. In a recent report Child Wise stated that:

‘Of the 8.6 million children aged 5-16 in the UK 73% have a laptop, PC or tablet. On average this age group spend 2.5 hours watching television and 1.5 hours online per day‘.

A huge amount of young people spend their time, during school and free time, staring at a screen. These statistics could be interpreted as alarming, especially next to the shocking 0.7 hours a child has been estimated to spend reading per week. Are the UK’s youth being seduced by the digital world and its charms?

In this day and age where would people be without the internet. How would younger people today function without their internet, social media, instant WIFI and online games? The majority of young people have a very active online presence. Graduating from younger social networking sites, such as Bebo and then moving onto Facebook, then Twitter and so on when they come of age. With such an active online life, many people have raised the question of whether or not young people are in fact damaging themselves. Whether an active online life, in fact inhibits a person’s ability to interact in a real-life situation, overdependence on social media is ongoing, growing and a very real issue.

However, there is evidence to suggest that as younger people age they begin to utilise the tools available to them to the best of their ability, and for the youth of today this includes social media.

Social media has revolutionised human relationships, creating what some might interpret as a bridge into a bright future. Facebook and Twitter have allowed the world to communicate in a unique and thoroughly new way, and society is still attempting to adjust to these startling leaps forward. It is clear that young people are enjoying the freedom to express themselves that social media brings, relishing the responsibility and sense of self their online life affords them. For instance, many young people use Facebook and Twitter as a means for job seeking. With the opportunity to have instant connectivity and in-depth knowledge available to anyone, it’s clear what young people find so attractive about technology. Many young people nowadays want to get out and do things, but cannot afford to; social media offers up opportunities that they may otherwise miss out on.

The key to social media is creating trust
The key to social media is creating trust

Social media is also being used as a means to keep young people engaged in the important issues within society. It is used to re-engage the interest of the younger generation in politics, for instance: the presidential campaign in New York in 2012, utilised social media to attract younger voters. The campaign depended strongly on a heavy social media presence, both presidential candidates utilised social media as much as they could. Adam Fetcher, deputy press secretary for the Obama campaign, is recorded to have claimed that social media was a natural next step for their campaign stating that: ‘it’s all about authentic, two-way communication’. And this statement seems to be true, in order for the millennial generation to feel relevant and important they require direct contact with figures of importance or fame. A lukewarm sense of participation seems to have led to a sense of apathy and disconnection from society at large. Social media’s sense of false intimacy, seems to be what younger people require; providing a platform through which they can be connected to their peers.

Although there are negatives to digital life, technology can be a force for positive social change. The internet could be seen as a visionary leap forward, levelling the playing field so that race, colour and gender carry less importance. The tools for change and improvement are at people’s fingertips. The internet and social media could perhaps be the best method of re-engaging the over-exposed and jaded millennial generation. And while technology is not a final solution to society’s many problems, if utilised correctly it could be used as a very positive tool for change.

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