Millenials are the first generation to spend our most fickle and impressionable years online. And we’re not just browsing the internet once a day, we’re online all the time both consuming media and broadcasting our own version of a mini-reality show. From Facebook to Twitter to our smart phones to Pinterst to Foursquare to Youtube to Netflix to Pandora, the options to absorb media and to share are endless (and mobile), which in turn means that we spend too much of our precious time sitting in front of a computer screen.
According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, teenagers spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using “entertainment media” everyday, and because most of this time is spent “media multi-tasking” the actual content consumed is equivalent to 10 hours and 45 minutes within the 7:38 total. This is a tremendous amount of time and consumption.
We need to start thinking quality over quantity. Millennials have to seriously evaluate where and how much time we’re spending online. It’s great to check Facebook to see what friends are up to, post a photo, or send someone a message, but do you really need to spend four hours going from profile to profile? The internet provides us amazing access to articles constantly updated throughout the day, but at some point you need to stop and evaluate what you are reading. Is it worthwhile content? Are social tools like Foursquare truly a needed? Is it necessary to let your peers know that every morning you get a coffee at Starbucks or where you go for dinner every single night of the week?
I’m not here to bash social media, and I’m certainly as guilty as the next millennial of spending too much time on the web. And there’s no doubt that wonderful things have come from our ability to connect with one another. We can now communicate with people around the globe effortlessly, thus (hopefully) breaking cultural stereotypes, among other benefits to business, education, etc. Social media also played an integral role in the recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, allowing citizens to connect with one another via channels that eluded government censorship and monitoring. Not to mention the multitude of college courses offered online, educational videos, articles, essays, etc. So yes, spending time online does have many, many benefits.
But we also must be cautious not to cross into a realm where our online world becomes our only world. It’s a slippery slope and spending too much time online can alter personal relationships, lead to over sharing personal information and sometimes even disconnection from reality. Relationships you only foster online can really only develop to a certain point, it’s imperative to have in-person time to foster any deeper connection.
As the first generation to come of age on the internet, we are the guinea pigs for those to come. We’ve seen numerous cases of people’s lives ruined by the choices they make online (from politicians to college students) and have come to learn that there certainly are limits to what you should share. To date, there is no privacy bill for the protection of internet users, and most information we submit willingly and almost habitually. By spending less time online, this will certainly aid in the filtering process and will also allow us more time to spend on developing relationships with our peers, exercising, exploring and learning through experience.
So, close your laptop, put down your phone and get the heck outside. Go meet a friend for a drink, go for a run, go to a museum, just get away from your computer for a few hours. Don’t worry, I promise it won’t go anywhere. It’s a well-known fact that obesity rates are increasing in America: about one-third of adults are obese. The 7 hours and 38 minutes we spend online is surely not helping this trend. It’s imperative that we take the time to take care of ourselves and foster meaningful relationships with friends. The greatest works of art, literature, science and human effort were created not by sitting in a dark room on a computer, but by getting out into the world and experiencing all it has to offer. A computer can certainly take you places, but it can only go so far.