There are two types of happiness in this world: ones that last and ones that don’t. Either they are enjoyed momentarily, like a candy bar or spending time on your smartphone, or they are long-lasting, like the relationships you have with someone you love, or a passion that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning. Take the example of smartphones, introduced recently to most Americans, but to me, a Gen Z kid, something that has always been an integral part of my life. Not only do smartphones bring momentary satisfaction, but they also can add to the chaos and disorder in life, potentially destroying anything meaningful.
Now, don’t get me wrong, smartphones are great. I have access to the collective knowledge of generations, readily available anytime in the palm of my hand. Better yet, there are no restrictions. If I want to watch K-pop music videos for eight hours straight, no one can stop me. If I want to learn how ancient philosophers thought, or how to learn another language, no one can stop me. In a way, smartphones and the internet promote individuality and mold themselves to the user. The freedoms that 21st century technology provides us with are beneficial, but are also detrimental to the innocent and unknowing.
When I was 11, my mom got a smartphone. At first, the idea of touch-screen technology was foreign to me. But gradually I became accustomed to this new technology. Fellow classmates got phones, too, and informed me of the newest and coolest apps. After hearing of their seemingly joyous experiences, I would go home to see for myself what they were talking about. Some of these games weren’t of interest to me, but others transfixed me for hours at a time.
This got much worse when I was in seventh grade. My dad bought me a Samsung tablet, and over the summer I played video games every day. The following Christmas, I got a smartphone. I was able to effortlessly entertain myself whenever I wanted. My phone followed me wherever I went, and I began to think that I couldn’t live without it. I became reliant on it for everything in my life from entertainment to self esteem and validation. My battle with technology was a losing one.
That was until I decided that I had had enough. I was tired of competing with other people I didn’t care about on social media, and I was fed up with how my spirit was drained in correlation with the battery in my phone. I decided to prioritize schoolwork, friends and family, and sleep. Although I did not entirely commit and stand firm in my priorities, I got a glimpse of what real happiness was. I grew as a person and was able to have a little more balance in my life.
I am not the only one who has had problems with technology. A study done by the American Psychological Association assessed the mental health of eighth, 10th and 12th graders from 1991 to 2016. They found that in 2012, “psychological well-being” suddenly decreased, and that teenagers who spent more time on screens and less with things that didn’t have a screen had lower psychological well-being. I can confirm this, and take it a little further. Kids my age (15, 16, 17) are depressed and anxious. Many are suicidal, angry and unhappy.
Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean, a tool that has been used throughout history to make ethical decisions in life, emphasizes the importance of balance, the average between extremes. Using this, I can gather that you should neither stay away from technology nor let it dictate your life. Have a little balance in your life. Only then will you truly be happy.
(Zach Bauder is a junior at Lakeside School in Seattle. This fall, he attended a semester program at The School for Ethics and Global Leadership in Washington, D.C.)
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