How Gen Z Can Reach a State of Digital Flourishing

Jul 22 / Tyler Rice
A long time ago, a generation of cavemen was born with fire already invented. Even though fire made their lives more comfortable than their parents', they had to learn how to avoid the flames devouring entire forests.

Gen Z's relationship with Technology is similar today. Their generation grew up in an era of technology and the internet, so many things are easier for them. But learning how to relate to the digital world in a way that benefits them more than harms their health is also a challenge. The flames of digital devices can also devour our well-being, and Gen Z knows that. 

Emma Lembka, a rising sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis who created the Log Off Movement, describes in an interview with The New York Times what healthy Technology - specifically social media - usage should look like. She says: "Healthy use of social media would be any interaction where the user feels as if they are benefiting and that their health is not being harmed. It's mentally logging off for a second and reflecting upon what makes you happiest and why you're on social media."

However, with the rise of social media use among teenagers, depression, anxiety, and suicide rates have also increased. Although there are no direct correlations, there is evidence that some platforms have worsened young people's mental health issues. One in three teenage girls experiences body-image concerns due to Instagram, according to Facebook research documents leaked to The Wall Street Journal by whistleblower Frances Haugen. It appears that the flames are consuming the mental health of our future generations, and we don't seem to notice. 

Our goal should be to use technology and social media in a way that benefits us and does not harm our health. Ultimately, an unhealthy relationship with social media and technology, in general, can lead to individuals having issues at school, at work, and home.

To achieve Flourishing, higher-ed must teach Gen Z to optimize their relationship with technology

What is Digital Flourishing?

The Digital Wellness Institute trademarked a term called Digital Flourishing™, defined as "the optimal state of health and productivity that a person using technology is capable of achieving." To measure how far or close we are to this state of digital well-being, the Institute created the Flourishing Survey™. You can find out if you are using your digital devices to their full potential by taking this survey based on the latest scientific findings on technology and well-being.

As Emma Lembka pointed out, Gen Z understands that social media has both positive and negative features, but at the moment, they see that it can be really harmful. In most cases, the answer is to shut everything down, which is impossible to sustain over time. The key to Digital Wellness is to think of it as a spectrum: from excessive technology use to complete unplugging. Rather than escaping Technology, the Digital Wellness Institute helps people find a healthy balance to live with it.

How can your college or university help Gen Z reach Flourishing?

For individuals to flourish in the digital age, institutions must understand the complexities and impacts of using digital devices. To get a pulse on Gen Z’s wellbeing in the digital age, the Digital Wellness Institute created the Wellbeing Survey for Workplaces and Higher-Ed. Through it, administrators will unlock insights related to Gen Z’s digital technology usage habits and their overall state of wellbeing.

Once you have a basic understanding of digital wellness, it is time to find that sweet spot through courses, consulting, and certification. Courses like Digital Wellness 101 and our Remote and Hybrid Work-Readiness Bundle help put knowledge to action and provide the tools that allow individuals to reform their tech usage. Consulting like communication charter workshops and keynote-addresses help inspire a culture of digital wellness from within.

Digital devices have forever changed our lives, and new generations are already embracing these benefits and battling the threats they pose. Now is the time to prioritize the well-being of users in online environments. It's time to give Gen Z the tools they need to prevent fires that burn our well-being apart. Emma Lembka said: "Technology is baked into the DNA of our generation. It's working to push towards regulation so that more systematic change can occur where individuals can feel better protected and find healthier habits." DWI wants to be the bridge between people and healthy digital habits.
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