Straight Talk with Lauren Forcella

Young people lament downside of digital age
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Dear Readers: What bugs you most about the world? How would you make the world better? Every winter, I pose these questions to the panel. This year, technology took a bruising. Real relationships, thinking deeply, embracing boredom and lamenting the demise of face-to-face interactions were top concerns for so many panelists that I devoted all of today’s column to this theme. Parents: as much as young people appear to love their texts, posts, tweets, games, movies and pornography (though I doubt you hear much about the latter), they also feel caught in its web and need help managing the medium – whether they say so or not. To a healthier new year!
~ Lauren

Sarah, 20, San Jose: I wish people would wake up to technology’s negative impact and reduce their dependence on it. Our phones never leave our hands. Texting and Facebook are preferred over face-to-face conversations. Playing Angry Birds is more interesting than people-watching. Nobody even stops for directions anymore – your phone tells you where to go. Instant gratification makes us impatient and demanding. We feel bored without constant entertainment. On Facebook, inflammatory remarks about others’ religion, ethnicity or morals are common fare and people word their statuses and post photos to make their lives appear more exciting than everyone else’s. Attracting attention is competitive and taken to an extreme.

McKenna, 24, Redding: The mainstreaming of pornography has instilled a false standard of beauty and has altered guys’ expectations of healthy sexual relationships. The industry is saturated with bleached-blonde, fake-breasted, porn-industry-standard women portrayed in unhealthy, submissive and degrading roles.

Lennon, 24, Fair Oaks: The biggest problem for me is the abstract collapse of time and space to the point where we want everything, preferably five minutes ago. We’ve hampered our ability to pay attention to the present. Life will go on whether you’re attentive to your immediate surroundings, or those miles away, but we would all be happier if we put our attention in the here and now. Also, if you slow down, life will slow down. Let yourself be bored. Relish each undistracted second. Often those are the periods of epiphany.

Christina, 20, Marysville: What supremely bugs me is when friends text me when they are upset rather than phoning or meeting in person. I can’t infer tone or facial expressions from a text, so I either take their communication too hard or underestimate its seriousness. Issues are settled so much better when people talk face to face.

Brady, 24, Redding: Overuse of social media has caused us to lose touch with basic human experiences. Face-to-face introductions have been replaced by a self-indulgent Twitter hashtag/Facebook frenzy. The nervous initial conversation with a new crush, its nuances, body language and self-awareness, are all but lost over the Internet. Facebook has become a marketing platform, mostly to market ourselves. I prefer real people, not the 140-character condensed version, or the carefully-constructed profile of how cool you are.

Matt, 17, Villa Park: There are 308 million people in our country. Imagine the impact if only 50 percent performed random acts of kindness? Opening a door, putting money in a homeless person’s hand, letting someone in line go first. Little gestures make big differences. Smiles are free and everyone feels happier when they receive one. Yet, ironically, few people smile in public. Let your light shine and be the change!

For more discussion, to ask a question or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit or write P.O. Box 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628.