By Zack Siegel
Like I do each month, I sat down last week to think of an idea for this column. I asked myself, “What’s going on that is important to me?”. Unfortunately, nothing came to mind. I realized that in today’s society, we are constantly thinking, but not truly reflecting. I kept asking myself why this was the case, but I could not find an answer. This was until I watched the recently popular Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma. This documentary is a series of interviews with some of the earliest and most respected developers of social media, discussing the negative impacts their creations have on our everyday lives. I quickly made the connection between my lack of ideas for this article and the message of the film.
Every time I am between activities in my daily life or have a lull in a conversation, I find myself checking my phone. While Instagram and Snapchat help me to stay connected with my friends, I leave myself no time for reflection.
The Social Dilemma discusses the intended addictive nature of social media and how it changes our brain chemistry. One effect is that we are constantly looking for that hit of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that induces short-term pleasure when we check our phones. Do you know what doesn’t cause the release of dopamine? Personal reflection.
Living among the first generation to be raised on social media makes it difficult for us to understand what life was like before we had instant entertainment. Our parents often describe what most teenagers could not imagine, the feeling of going into their bedrooms and being completely disconnected. Without the crutch of social media, our parents had no alternative but to make use of the times they were bored and engaged in true thought. The very nature of social media and its impact on our society prohibits us from having truly free time. Free time does not mean sitting on the couch and scrolling through TikTok. Free time is having no distractions and being alone with your thoughts. Even while writing this column, the idea of life without a phone is extremely uncomfortable. Our generation has been so conditioned to avoid the discomfort of being alone with our thoughts that it is scary to even imagine its possibility.
So as I sat and struggled to find a topic to write about, the resulting anxiety pushed me to ask a much deeper question: How can I go through life, under the impression that I know myself well, without being able to reflect on my thoughts? The simple answer is that I cannot. Reflection is necessary for all of us to find order in the chaos of our everyday lives.
From this perspective, it is no wonder that Gen Z exhibits the highest rates of anxiety and depression. We never give ourselves the opportunity to be alone with our thoughts. While technology and social media have improved our lives drastically, they have proved to be detrimental to our psychological well being. Our challenge is to balance the addictive nature of today’s technology without sacrificing the luxury of reflection.
—Zack Siegel is a student at
Schreiber High School