Is Social Interaction Dying?

Kailey Torres

It’s crazy to think that there was a time people didn’t have the latest technology. They didn’t have access to the world that can sit right in their pocket. However, in current society, humans couldn’t live to see a day where the globe wasn’t using all the advanced technology. 


As a teen myself, I know I have succumbed to using my phone around friends and family. I have found myself wanting to step away from the world and lay down in bed to watch Netflix. These actions contribute to social interaction drastically depleting the younger generation and the ones to come. 


It is no secret that toddlers are now given their parents’ phones to watch YouTube and smart TVs, giving them instant gratification with whatever they want to watch. The Guardian states kids as young as seven own a mobile phone. 


The early exposure to the screen can become harmful to the child. The Guardian includes, “39% said they could not live without their phone – up from 33% last year.” As well as, “44% said they would feel uncomfortable if they were somewhere without a phone signal, while 42% admitted to being “constantly worried” about running out of charge.” 


Kids can no longer go somewhere and enjoy their surroundings without being tethered to a device. Although, no one has thought that maybe younger generations were built to be programmed this way. 


Netflix released a documentary this year in January titled “The Social Dilemma.” It includes interviews of people who were creators and leaders of social media platforms. Companies like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram use their business model to keep people engaged on the screen. Tim Kendell, Former Facebook Executive, Former Pinterest President, and CEO of Moment, states questions related to companies’ business models such as, “Let’s figure out how to get as much of this person’s attention as possible. How much time can we get you to spend? How much of your life can we get you to give to us?”


There was a scene in the documentary where two kids were talking to one another about a crush. Once the kid received a notification nudge from an app on his phone, it led to the kid dropping the conversation. The other kid hopped onto his phone and cut short their interaction for the rest of the time they were together. This has become prevalent in the younger generations. These platforms work in a way to keep one’s attention and find another way to pull them back when they’ve put the technology down. 


Tristen Harris, Former Google Design Ethicist, Co-Founder of the Center for Human Technology, states, “Persuasive technology is just sort of designed to modify someone’s behavior. We want them to take the action of swiping up or down with their finger.” An addiction to grab a phone and see if there is something new to check out is a design technique. Apps are formed in a way like Las Vegas slot machines: every time you swipe your finger down you get something new. You never know exactly what you’re going to get.


Swiping down, refreshing the screen, and seeing something new is called “positive intermittent reinforcement.” These apps dig deep into one’s brain stem, planting an unconscious habit like one is being programmed.


As technology continues to advance, the effect it has on the human population will only continue to grow. Whether it’s positive or negative, the world doesn’t know just yet.