Technology is (sub)consciously polarizing. While we’ll never have to memorize directions again for the rest of our lives, three-year-olds are now more comfortable with their iPads than their fathers.
After reading that, how did it make you feel? Did you agree? Did it turn your stomach? Did you think it was unfair? In my personal experience (and in my small-sample orbit), the majority of responses to that type of statement trend towards disparagement.
I’ve thought that, too. I’ve made the personal decision to abandon accounts on social media heavyweights (TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter); even being hyperaware of its effects as a means of mitigation, I still experience noticeable depression when I engage with the platforms after as little as one minute of browsing. It colors my opinion of device use and capital-S capital-M Social Media, even though people find genuine joy and community online.
I never want my personal experience to color my opinion of the whole – which would be assuredly inaccurate and wholly unfair. The common refrain from Old People seems to be that the widespread proliferation of a camera trained entirely on the self has naturally produced a generation of narcissists. Though there is evidence that’s not true, the idea that I have entertained that very position is what makes me feel Old. Like when my parents were told weed was a deadly menace, the progression of time will happen regardless of the prevailing philosophies of the day. For most of Gen Z – and unquestionably Generation Alpha – they’ve lived their entire lives online. For developed countries, it’s not “a” way of life, it’s “the” way of life. And that doesn’t make it a monster.
Alexis Ohanian, the Reddit co-founder who very publicly stepped down from the company amidst the Black Lives Matter movement, went on the Bill Simmons Podcast (which you can stream below), and, around the 82:00 mark, Ohanian took the opposing viewpoint on this downside-of-ubiquitous-tech debate. It was refreshing, inspiring, and it was the first time I’d ever heard someone approach it from this angle:
“I’m going to spin it for you. … This generation – the narcissist generation, the digital native generation, (the) selfie generation – they are the first generation to think of themselves as much as creators as consumers of content. And that’s powerful, right?Alexis Ohanian
“We used to watch a movie and we’d be like, ‘That was a good movie.’ And maybe we’d bullshit with our friends after and be like, ‘I would have done this differently, maybe.’ But this generation can watch the movie and actually remix it and make it better and upload it and actually have that remix – whether it’s a movie or a song or artwork or whatever – be better. Even when they’re editing silly videos on TikTok, they’re using pretty impressive editing techniques. They are interpreting culture and content with the mindset of I can create something even better, which is really empowering. …
“So I think it’s good, man. Bring on the narcissist generation of creators.”
I love hearing that. I’ve long admired younger generations’ abilities to accomplish sophisticated video editing on a device with a 4″ screen size that used to take us days and thousands of dollars worth of software and an immobile hunk of machinery to complete. Ohanian has connected a dot that binds a pervasively digital lifestyle to empowerment I never saw before.
It’s enabled access, and not just from a creative perspective but from a literal one, too; for example, technologically creative design in prosthetics imagines new worlds for humans with disabilities. A digitally-native generation will take up that torch and create even more innovative realities – both physically, digitally, and (of specific note) metaphysically. That’s a reality entertained because they believe in themselves, which, as Ohanian points out, began with their entitlement to create made possible by living a life entirely augmented by technology.
Bring it on.