By Jonathon Van Maren
I graduated from high school in 2006, and the first iPhone came out the following year. Kids had cell phones before that – I got mine when I earned my driver’s license – but we used them primarily for texting each other. Our lives did not unfold online; we couldn’t livestream or constantly take videos of the various goings-on; Snapchat and Instagram didn’t exist yet, and Facebook only showed up halfway through tenth grade, before it was abandoned for cooler platforms and became the hangout of middle-aged relatives. In short, we could screw up without our peers serving as potential snitches. We could say stupid things, tell stupid jokes, and make mistakes without our dumbest moments being immortalized and stowed away by the omnipresent eyes of smartphone cameras.
These days, that is no longer the case. Smartphones are the center of teen life, and any activity – no matter how mundane – is recorded and blasted off to an ever-expanding network of acquaintances. Smartphones shape the daily lives of teens and adolescents, and they filter their activities through their social media accounts. The results have been high stress levels; cyber-bullying that carries on even when teens are at home; sexting; revenge porn; skyrocketing levels of depression and suicide. Parents purchase their children the very tools that make them miserable. Everyone is trapped in a virtual reality; everyone’s worst moments are captured on-camera, where they wait to resurface years later.
A recent story snapped this all into focus once again.