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Opinion: A digital generation

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What happens when work, education and social activities all migrate to an online platform? Has convenience gone too far? 
Kaylin Atkinson/THE REVIEW

Development Officer

Throughout the past few years, I’ve noticed that parts of my life have drifted away into the void of the internet and my dream of escaping into the wilderness has only grown stronger. I have no doubt that others have also observed the shattered relationships, the missed opportunities and the terrible silence of it all.  

This year’s graduating seniors have spent almost half of their college years taking classes online and many will go on to join a completely digital workforce after graduating. According to data scientists at Ladders, 25% of professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and that percentage will only continue to increase. 

The pandemic was only the spark of a grander societal shift online.

The seniors I spoke with who plan to pursue remote, online jobs are right, they are convenient. As many of us experienced during the shut-downs during the early stages of the pandemic, it’s nice to work from the comfort of home. There are also possibilities that come with working remotely that would not accompany any in-person job; for example, with “digital nomad” specifications popping up in various countries, one could potentially travel the world while working and earning an income. These policies allow for temporary residency in a foreign country under the condition that the resident is working remotely online. Further, with the development of automated technology and artificial intelligence, the question arises, do we really all need to work in person? 

All of that aside though, I write to caution us not to go too far in our pursuit of a digital world. The workplace is likely the next realm to fall into the internet void. Yes, of course remote, online work has its benefits, but I argue that the risks are much more harmful. 

What happens when work, education and social activities all migrate to an online platform? Has convenience gone too far? 

The generation that makes up the majority of the university’s student population has grown up with the internet, and it has pervaded almost all aspects of our lives. We use it to communicate with friends, teachers and employers; we use it for entertainment; we use it as a platform for work; that list goes on. 

What has become clear throughout the pandemic, is that to spend our lives behind a screen is detrimental to our well-being. 

In March and April of 2021, the American Psychological Association conducted a survey of 1,000 remote workers and found that the majority of those workers experienced negative mental health impacts, such as isolation and loneliness. 

Working remotely in and of itself is not the problem; it’s a lack of socialization. Many times, social interaction is a characteristic of the workplace that can vanish when that workplace is moved to a remote, online environment. And there is a certain authenticity lost as in-person interaction is limited. 

According to a study done by the PEW Research Center, 48% of people aged 18 to 29 use the internet “almost constantly,” whereas 8% of those 65 and older say the same. This is our generation — defined by our lacking experiences in a world without technology — and clearly, we’re addicted. 

Jamie Mitus, an associate professor at Hofstra University said that this “obsession with technology” can cause physical and social disorders such as depression, anxiety, repetitive motion disorder and sleep deprivation. 

To my peers: If we keep letting the internet take pieces of our lives, one by one, our generation is destined for loneliness, blindness and inauthenticity. It’s up to us to decide where to draw the line.

This isn’t an argument against the internet, it’s a warning. Put down the smartphone, close the laptop screen and claim your humanity — even for a brief second — before it’s too late.

Kelsey Wagner is a development officer for The Review. Her opinions are her own and do not represent the majority opinion of The Review’s editorial staff. She may be reached at kdwagner@udel.edu.

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