Five teens sitting together, but looking at their phones.

(Jemma Paradise/Orange Appeal)

In this fast paced, ever changing world, advances in technology are often seen as the key to success.  Development in communication has empowered businesses across the world and given opportunity to far-reaching communities, but whilst many use this modern media to achieve their dreams and stay in touch with friends, others have fallen prey to its obsession, trapped in a negative cycle that takes control of their lives. The OA caught up with Bailey Parnell, founder and CEO of Skillscamp, to discuss her insight on this growing paradox and its potential to transform the world of communication, both for better and for worse.

What are the long term effects of growing up in a culture of social media?

The truth of the research is that we are not going to know the real answer to that until we have teenagers that have grown up and are able to reflect on what it was like. We are in a very particular phase of history right now where young people are growing up with social media, yet the parents, educators, and adults have not.

So we are kind of guessing what the long term effects are of this mass addiction; if they go unrecognized, we are going to have a crisis of confidence and loneliness, which are definitely feelings that carry on into adulthood. The addiction (to social media) is both physiological and physical, which makes it especially hard to break. It not only affects your offline life and how you move through the day but also impacts your sense of self; constant engagement in the media’s upward comparisons have been linked to a decline in mental health. In that respect, how is social media affecting the way adolescents view themselves in terms of their self-confidence, self-image, and overall identity?

Adolescents are already at the phase of life where you go compare yourself (which is perfectly normal) as a means of socialization. This happened long before social media,

but now, the comparisons don’t turn off, are directly tied to your identity, and quantified by likes/shares for everyone to see, even more tangible now than it was subjective before. Personalities have become a commodity, with interesting philosophical consequences

Moving into a workplace dynamic, currently, face-to-face communication is central to the success of companies and overall achievement in the marketplace. How will teenage online interactions impact such communication?

If young people are addicted to a screen and they are not prioritizing the offline, then theoretically you would enter the workforce, and if you have never done any soft skills training, it is going to be tougher for you to handle in-person, offline conversations.

In your opinion, define the importance of soft skills?

The five most important soft skills you can build for yourself should start with self-awareness you need to really understand your own beliefs, values, motivators, stressors so you know when it’s in flux. And Resilience, so that when something happens, you are able to bounce back and actually thrive in the face of that. Self-confidence, because there is a version of you that really does not care this person gets more life, that does not let it affect your sense of self. Time management, because planning how you are going to spend your day and how much you are going to give to this matters. And finally, everybody should value their time more. Most people don’t appreciate the potential of time because they work in a billable hour industry. Be mindful about what you do; we did observations with participants where I watched them go through their social media feeds, and I would stop them and say “who’s that, did you ‘like’ them, what do you like about the photo.” The scroll was so mindless; you are still taking in visuals, you are still taking in everything, whether you are being mindful of it or not.

Are we going to be able to teach the next generation that it is necessary to switch off sometimes?

Yes, because we need to. Social media is a risky behavior like sex and drugs and alcohol. There is a mass addiction right now by every definition of addiction, physiologically and physically, and like we know with drugs and alcohol, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. It is not meaning we need to abstain, but rather know where to draw the line and understand the need to take breaks. More importantly than ever though, more important than switching off, is just moderating consumption.