Mar 5Liked by Blaise Lucey

I moved around a lot growing up. In some of the places I lived there were lots of other kids around and I went outside and played with them. In other places there weren’t many kids, or they didn’t go outside much, so I sat in my room depressed and lonely. Sure, I probably could’ve figured out a way to find friends in those places if I tried harder or was more socially adept. But the increased difficulty made a big difference.

It’s not really helpful to tell people to get off their phones and go outside today in my opinion, because if they do they will find those spaces empty because everyone else is on their phone. Being with others online is worse than being with others in person, but it’s better than being alone, and for many (including me) that’s the choice they face. I can’t find anyone interested in forming a community in person, and yeah if I was a better person in some way maybe I could, but I’m doing the best I can, and right now for me that’s trying to find communities online. I don’t think this current situation is one that most people can change individually--it’s a collective action problem that something about the world needs to change to fix.

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I thought about this when I wrote the piece: it’s a little smug to just assume putting away the phones will fix things. That said, I think that, even if we are alone with ourselves without technology, it’s less lonely than with technology because at least we are present. I think what the data shows is that the simulation of connection is making us lonelier either way, even though it feels like the opposite.

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Twenge sure does know her way around a florid, alarmist subtitle. Then again, anecdotal and survey data seems to bear out many of her conclusions; more than a high school teacher like me would probably like to contemplate.

From my perspective, personal responsibility is something that needs modeled and encouraged. I think the nature of the social media sphere as a closed ecosystem complicates how kids can self-regulate within it, especially when phone dependency is itself what's being normalized by the old-heads.

I'm curious to see what other causes and effects you explore in subsequent pieces. I think sane public policy through regulation of how these companies operate has a role to play, too: especially when you consider Frances Haugen and the Facebook Papers testimony, which expose pretty clearly how the prerogatives of the attention economy let these companies treat young women's mental health like a petri dish of market research.

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