By Tong Niu:
The 2000s decade recently came to a close, and perhaps this is two months too late, but have we considered all that has developed in these past ten years? Yes, a lot of good has been done, but in the midst of all these developments, not-so-good habits have begun to emerge as well. Here are three lifestyle changes that, while not a major issue at the moment, could evolve into something worse.
1) Information Overload:
A major side effect of having all the world’s knowledge at our fingertips? Information overload. But this goes beyond the infinite links on search engines–though that’s a huge contributing factor as well–this includes the millions of emails, instant messages, and notifications that we receive. And while we are willing to expose ourselves to new online stimuli, when the newness of it all wears off, we will be left with flooded inboxes and shortened attention spans.
What frightens me most about the digital world is not how much information is available, but much information we are exposed to everyday without even realizing it. To put things into perspective, a Royal Pingdom report estimates that in 2010, nearly three billion emails were sent on a daily basis. In fact, the International Digital Center predicted a 138% increase in e-mail use during this past decade.
And with the 2004 creation of Facebook, this overloading continued to increase. Within 10 months of its founding, it had already reached 1 million users. According to Facebook, it currently has over 500 million active users, and 50 percent of those users log on to Facebook in any given day. Furthermore, the average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups, or events and 900 million objects that they can interact with.
To contribute to this information surplus, the average user also creates 90 pieces of content each month. But to the everyday Facebook user, including myself, day-to-day activities don’t seem as tremendous, and that’s what scares me. Perhaps because it’s so overdone, or so overexposed to, we’ve become accustomed to the multitude of distractions on the internet. We’ve come to accept the spam and unwanted Twitter feeds, which, while harmless now, may not remain so in the future.
2) Helicopter Parenting:
As a teenager, perhaps it would be biased of me to address the issue of excessive parental attention. While no teen enjoys being monitored at all hours of the day, this style of child rearing is becoming increasingly popular. I attribute this to two causes: smaller household sizes and greater economic progress for families.
A Euromonitor International report found that the total number of children globally aged 0 to 14 has diminished in the past decade at an annual rate of 0.1%. This trend is relatively new because previous decades have all shown an increase in the number of children, globally. This downturn in child population translates into smaller household sizes. This also means that there is a greater amount of resources to spend on each child. With most nations growing economically, parents are now able to devote more time and money to their children.
However, what may seem as a positive result of economic progress is now turning into excessive parenting. With parents hovering over everything a child did, children are losing the individuality and problem solving abilities that are so crucial for later years. Neil Montgomery, a psychologist at Keene State College, conducted a study to determine the psychological impact of helicopter parenting. The results found that children of helicopter parents were less open and even more neurotic than their peers. The sheltered environment that these kids grew up in makes them less willing to “leave the nest” when it comes time for them to start their own lives. Perhaps this is why the National Survey of Households and Families found that 10 percent of all children over the age of 25 now live with their parents.
Though there is nothing wrong with having strong family ties, this does present a problem in the workplace. Being swaddled by parents from a young age creates the misconception that everything in life will be as equally easy to attain. To prevent this trend from continuing into the 2010s, we need to take a step back, literally, and reevaluate our approach to parenting. We need to coddle less and trust that kids will eventually find their own way. Hopefully, we can stop parenting from becoming a life-long occupation.
With crazy new phones come crazy new ways to communicate, mainly texting. In fact, Asia is the largest SMS consumer, with Europe following close behind. Users in Spain send on average fifty messages per month in 2003 alone. The US is averaging close to 80 text messages per day, according to a study conducted by Dr. Martin Joffe, a pediatrician in Greenbrae, California.
Unfortunately, all this texting is also bringing a slew of problems. Most notably is the deterioration of language. In texts, words are shortened and punctuation is removed altogether. The emphasis is no longer on grammar or spelling, but on how concisely a message can be sent and still be understood.
Even worse is the disappearance of actual conversations. Not only have face to face interactions decreased, but even phone conversations. A 2009 Pew survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that teenagers now text more than they talk. While this phenomenon may not be as extreme in other nations, it’s certainly a trend that is on the rise, especially with the increase of full keyboard phones.
The above three trends of the past decade may not seem as dire as other problems and it’s entirely possible that they will correct themselves overtime. However, it’s important to monitor these trends, because while they may go away on their own, they can also snowball into something much worse.