MacDonald: Gen Z will first see the results of 24/7 device use

Alexandra MacDonald

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

At the turn of the 21st century, there was no way to predict the way our devices would ultimately be embedded in our lives today. Email and cellphones had only been somewhat developed at that point and many homes had landlines. Immediate connection just wasn’t there, and if you asked some, even that was the boundary line for privacy. 


Having that connection has inherently made our lives easier by changing the way we work and see people, yet we haven’t seen the full picture. Gen Z, who grew as the Age of Information began, will be the first to see exactly what second-by-second, minute-by-minute online accessibility will yield for us in the long-term.

Today, our need to be consistently attached to the ebbing pulse of online connectivity is capturing our attention more so than our in-person lives. We’re finding it a challenge to simply go an hour without the contact of our iPhones. For the ones who end their days plugging in their phones, laptops and e-readers to charge moments before they go to sleep, it seems our devices do change the patterns of our lives just as we find ourselves often customizing them. 

We can blame this on a few things. The rapid growth of online networks like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Gmail and LinkedIn have unapologetically gifted us with a stronger desperation to be seen. Depending on the job someone has, their entire occupation may be dependent on a strong internet connection. 

To ask how our devices have challenged our daily lives is a question that makes it appear as if our phones or computers have come from that late-night sci-fi special. There’s a fearful, negative undertone that our devices are controlling us, our lives and the thoughts and decisions we make. We experience so many things quite differently than we would a mere 20 years ago. 

“It’s inherently made our lives easier by changing the way we work and see people, yet we haven’t seen the full picture.”

The changes in expectations of privacy are suddenly less challenged with cameras with facial recognition capabilities proudly displayed on our devices. We experience more recorded surveillance on our phones and in public spaces than ever before. Security cameras hang from the edges of buildings, decorate ceiling tiles, stoplights and hallways. Anything can be recorded, uploaded and mere clicks away from becoming viral. The day we invent time travel is a day when we shock the past by our sacrifices in the future. 

Yet our collective need to be connected 24/7 can be seen as a step-up. It is labor-saving; we no longer need to go to a pay phone at the airport, buy stamps to send letters or even call someone when you could just scroll through their Instagram feed to know what they’re up to. In a corporate setting, the accessibility of group remote calls wouldn’t have been considered a possibility during the outbreak of a global pandemic a few years ago; the work would slow, maybe even coming to a complete standstill. 

At this moment, we can’t see if the obsessive use of our devices will be damaging in the long term, but we can tell how it affects our lives by the way we use it. The digital divide, a term used by Stanford University to express the difference between those who have available internet access and those who don’t, may be redefined in the upcoming decades. The current fragmentation of the internet seems only to be growing, and dedicating yourself to learning how to code or learn the guitar is ultimately up to the user. 

A Colorado State University student may be caught at any given moment scrolling through TikTok or browsing Snapchat stories, but that may not be the case for their parents or grandparents. We grew up with the rise of an immense online world, and we should be prepared for its next expansion.

Alexandra MacDonald can be reached at or on Twitter @alexandramacc.