Ailts: How has being part of the iPhone generation shaped us?

It’s the iPhone’s 10 year anniversary. How has the smartphone shaped our generation?

by Ellen Ailts

On Sept. 12, Apple announced the upcoming release of two new iPhone models: the iPhone 8 and iPhone X. The excitement around new features was as expected; besides promises of being faster, clearer, smarter and more durable, the new iPhones even have features like facial recognition and augmented reality software. These new smartphones won’t come cheap. The iPhone X has been making headlines with its $1,000 price tag.

But Apple knows people will shell out that kind of cash for the latest and greatest. The cultural and social cachet of the newest iPhone has been a regular phenomenon during these past 10 years. With opening day lines stretching for blocks and people camping out, searching for the best deal — it’s become familiar to all of us, even if only observing it from afar. 

Smartphones, and iPhones especially, have become such an enormous and inextricable part of our lives. For young people, particularly the late millennial generation, the smartphone has shaped us. Life without the iPhone seems almost inconceivable at this point — how would we keep up with friends? Find our way around a new city? Order McDonald’s delivery at 2 a.m.? 

Too gruesome to even fathom. However, with the release of these new iPhone models marking 10 years since the first iPhone was released, it’s probably time to take stock of this relatively new but omnipresent addition to our lives.

San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge has dubbed those of us born from 1995-2012 “iGen.” We’re less likely to drink and are more likely to wait to start driving and having sex, arguably maturing slower than previous generations. We’re also prone to be more psychologically vulnerable. Through her research, Twenge has come to believe that our rampant smartphone and social media usage is largely to blame. 

“It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades,” she writes for the Atlantic. She notes that even since 2011, teen depression and suicide has increased exponentially. And research shows that the more time we spend looking at screens, the unhappier we report ourselves to be.

It’s near impossible to not spend a huge chunk of our lives looking at screens — being a college student makes it compulsory. But, as I’m sure most of us have experienced, it’s easy to spend too much time online — doing homework can devolve into scrolling through Instagram all too easily. Smartphone use has become a generation-wide addiction, something we’re all in constant close proximity to. Even if we aren’t avid social media users, there are a myriad of other online rabbit holes that are easily fallen into. And studies show, it’s making us unhappy — though most of us already probably suspected this.

So how should we move forward? In an age which increasingly requires more screen-time, it’s important that we simply keep its dangers in mind. Though it has simplified life in many ways, it also has become all-consuming. Taking a break from our smartphones is absolutely necessary, and something we should all try to do as much as possible. Taking up any hobby which doesn’t involve a screen is a good place to start, as well as setting reasonable time limits for spending time on social media. Because, yeah, the new iPhones look cool — but are they really worth losing our heads over?