Is Technology affecting young people’s ability to fulfill their potential?

In many ways, the advancement of technology is a positive thing and is enabling people to do more – but is technology, and social media in particular, actually standing in the way of us fulfilling our potential?In this article you will learn:

  • The impact of using technology and social media
  • Why we need to be bored
  • The importance of disconnecting

While no-one would ever say that technology or social media is a totally bad thing, more and more studies are being done that are starting to reveal the harm that they are causing in society. And with young people the most likely to engage in these activities, there is a possibility that they could have an effect on how successful they are in future. Here’s three ways that social media is impacting young people’s ability to achieve.

1. They are losing the art of conversation

Gone are the days that people picked up the phone to speak to their friends to find out what is going on in their lives. Now we know in real time exactly what our friends are doing, thanks to their Facebook status updates, Instagram stories and tweets. But are young people losing the ability to hold a conversation?

According to one high school English teacher, yes. “My students don’t know how to have a conversation,” Paul Barnwell writes in The Atlantic. He set his students a task that required them to hold a conversation – to record a podcast discussing education issues.

“Even with plenty of practice, the task proved daunting to students,” he says. “I watched trial runs of their podcasts frequently fall silent. Unless the student facilitator asked a question, most kids were unable to converse effectively.”

But, as Barnwell points out, college and job interviews cannot be conducted via a smartphone, negotiations and discussions in the workplace need to be carried out with a thoughtful presence and demonstrating their ability to think on their feet – something that Barnwell’s junior English class (and, arguably, many others of the same generation) would struggle with.

2. They are losing the beauty of boredom

Many parents know the dreaded feeling when their child utters those words: “I’m bored.” Handing over the tablet or smartphone for another few minutes peace is the easy option and keeps their child entertained.

But, Dr Vanessa Lapointe thinks that we should allow children to be bored more often. She says: “Children need to sit in their own boredom for the world to become quiet enough that they can hear themselves. It is only when we are surrounded by nothing that something comes alive on the inside.”

She adds: “Children need to sit in the nothingness of boredom in order to arrive at an understanding of who they are.”

Dr Lapointe challenges parents to let their children be bored “and then watch. Watch as your child’s mind becomes quiet. Watch as their internal sense of self takes over. Watch as their sense of being comes bubbling out of them and spills over into this incredible energy to create and do and conquer. And then watch as they grow into confident, capable, driven young people.”

3. They are losing the ability to do deep thinking

Research psychologist Max Blumberg thinks that being constantly connected is reducing young people’s ability to think about things on a deeper level.

He says: “The end result of all this, I think, is that you will become very reactive. You won’t be able to do deep thinking and you won’t see things being built anymore. To build a really cool company, like Virgin for example, Richard Branson needed a lot of deep thinking and a lot of focus, which he couldn’t have got if he had been always connected.”

He adds: “We’re already starting to see that the kids from richer backgrounds are really restricted in the amount of TV and internet that they are allowed to use because their parents who built these big companies know that that is what is required to be able to achieve such things, so those kids are going to end up building the big companies of the future.

“And the kids from poorer backgrounds, who are online all the time and have a very reactive brain, will end up being the consumers and customers of the other kids’ companies. There will be a huge market where people will buy anything because the brand is flashed up without having any critical thinking about it because their brains are not used to deep thinking.”