Rizz, gigachad, pookie. If 50% of the words you text have the squiggly red line under it, you are probably chronically online and in need of a digital detox.
The advent of the world wide web has brought faster communication, accessible information and the ability to build relationships without leaving your bed. Necessary technology with unforeseen consequences. Yes, you may now text your grandma and ask her for the delectable peach cobbler recipe. But that same messaging app can be used by a celebrity to facilitate a lengthy, sordid affair.
In sociology, third places are spaces you come to relax separate from work and home. So no, your bed does not count, nor does that corner in your break room where you have arranged all the condiment packets into neat, little, color-coordinated stacks.
When the internet was first created, there was no camaraderie. Everyone was a stranger, and it stayed like that. If something happened online, for the most part, you could log off and forget about it until the next time you hopped on.
Now, the internet is inescapable and has weaved itself into every aspect of life. Remember that one get ready with me you posted on TikTok where you ripped into your manager for scheduling you on Fourth of July? Yeah, she saw that, and now you have a meeting with her and Rebecca from HR on Tuesday.
It sounds a lot scarier than it is. Maybe baby boomers think every member of Gen Z emerges from the womb with an iPhone Gorilla Glued to their hands, but that is rarely the case. What boomers lack in debt, Gen Z makes up for in technological literacy.
But there is some merit to these stereotypes. The internet is becoming Gen Z’s third place. The internet becoming a lot of things in their lives. It has replaced the need to develop coping skills or in-person friendships. There has even been a case or two of AI significant others. And with stunted social skills from the pandemic, the prospect of going to a cafe and socializing with people is terrifying.
It is not even the small percent of the population who exist online who have the internet as their third place. For a lot of people, it is easier. A third place that exists in your back pocket. Need to escape the stress of a nine to five? Hop on TikTok, but do not forget to log off after a few minutes.
But this is where the problem arises. You hop on to think about something besides Excel spreadsheets and bounce rate, and suddenly you have veered onto chef TikTok where they make lewd innuendos with bell peppers and celery and suddenly you realize you have lost 45 minutes and have a complaint from HR.
Doomscrolling is a very real phenomenon where someone consumes negative content for extended periods of time. It has happened to everyone once or twice, but when you live and breathe Instagram algorithms and YouTube apologies, it becomes suffocating. Everyone lands in the hole, but Gen Z does not have the tools to get their metaphorical ladder and climb out of it. Instead, it rubs the lotion on its skin.
Boomers have a third place. It also helps that they do not have crippling social anxiety as a product of the pandemic and feel the need to rant about any social interaction on their private story.
Gen Z, please step outside. Touch the roses, smell the grass or however that silly phrase goes.