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USC professor invites students to untether during Science, Technology, and Society event

By Kaitlyn Oliveros, Apr. 26, 2022

Cal Poly Pomona’s Science, Technology, and Society program held an online event on April 19, inviting Julie Albright, digital socialist and professor at USC’s Department of Applied Psychology and Sustainable Infrastructure in the Viterbi School of Engineering, to discuss both the positive and negative effects of social media and introduce the idea of becoming “untethered.”

Science, Technology, and Society is a program within the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences, available as both a major and a minor. Professor and director of the program, Peter W. Ross, organized the event for students who are currently focusing on the impacts of social media.

Albright’s April 19 presentation focused on the effects of social media on new generations. (Courtesy of Julie Albright)

“I have students who are really interested in hearing from an expert on how social media impacts societies and psychologies,” said Ross, explaining why Albright was an ideal speaker for the event.

Becoming untethered, as explained by Albright, is the idea of social values and behaviors such as getting married, having children and going to church no longer being in place. Younger generations have since replaced those social values and behaviors with digital hyper-connectivity. Their lives now revolve around digital devices and social media.

Although technology is more advanced than ever, people are also unhappier than ever.

“It’s fine to unhook, but the issue is there are no new anchoring institutions that have taken the place of the committed relationship, the home, being part of a group in your community, etc.,” said Albright. “Instagram doesn’t replace that, and if it did, we wouldn’t see these escalating rates of anxiety, depression, physical health issues and things like that.”

Since Instagram’s release in 2010, the medium has grown to more than 1 billion users. Within those 1 billion users, at least 500,000 of them are social media influencers. Albright explained how these social media influencers play a huge role in why young people are so depressed.

“Young people who are immersed in this world are comparing themselves to images that have been face-tuned, photoshopped, adjusted, made thinner, made longer. … They’re comparing themselves to a reality and people that don’t really exist,” says Albright. “They themselves don’t look like that; they themselves don’t have that fabulous life. You’re seeing 10%. You’re not seeing the other 90%.”

With lives now revolving around technology, parents are now giving their children devices to keep them occupied instead of having them go outside and play. Albright pointed out that since older generations didn’t grow up with advanced technology, they had more physical experiences. In fact, Albright presented recent studies that have shown that only 6% of children still play outside.

People have become heavily dependent on the internet to the point where they believe they can no longer live without it. Albright presented an online poll of adults from around the world who believe they cannot live without the internet. India ranked the highest at 82%.

“We don’t have a plan B for society when the lights go out,” said Albright. “We need to rethink a little bit more about self-reliance so when, not if, when that internet goes down, we’re not starving to death or panicking.”

By introducing the idea of becoming untethered and discussing both the good and bad impacts of social media, Albright hopes students are more intentional with their use of technology and set aside sacred spaces away for themselves.

“Spend time with friends and family, face-to-face without a device between you and really be there for yourself and the other person. Make connections and spend that time to build those relationships,” said Albright.

Martha Rosario, a student majoring in geography and science, technology and society, took a lot from the event.

“She really applies the ethics portion into how we live our daily lives in terms of how we all interact and use technology on a daily basis, and it gives us good content to critically think with and reflect back into our lives and how we can possibly do better or become more aware,” said Rosario.

For more information on Albright, students can find her Twitter page @drjuliea.

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