Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Developing people skills in a world of artificial fulfillment

by Mark Kagi
| July 4, 2024 12:00 AM

2024 marks the 20th anniversary since the emergence of Facebook, a social network that promised to interconnect us with friends, family, and even new people. It failed.

With teens now spending, on average, five hours per day using social media, the time-tested process of forming bonds in school and learning social norms through trial and error has diminished as screen time continues to replace face-to-face interaction.

While some social lessons can still be learned by simply ambling the hallways of our adolescent melting pots, to unlock a fuller social maturity in the age of smartphones, students need a diverse portfolio of real-life experiences.

During my high school journey, I have found that by crafting a unique combination of classes, extracurriculars and friend groups, my overall social toolkit has expanded.

Whether it’s weight training, AP Biology, Spanish, or 3D printing, the varied selection of classes that I’ve taken has enabled me to interact with a wide array of personality types throughout each day.

Additionally, the balance that I’ve maintained between athletic and nonathletic extracurriculars – from trying out for baseball, to joining Speech and Debate, to serving as class president for two years – has allowed me to forge new friendships with both adults and schoolmates who I otherwise wouldn’t have met.

Many students faced with the prospect of socializing go for the easy-out and limit themselves to a certain group of peers within their comfort zone. However, I have found that by immersing myself in a medley of social circles, it’s been more socially rewarding than had I stuck with what was familiar.

I also discovered that similar to diversifying investments via the S&P 500 rather than buying shares of a single stock, I’ve always had a positive connection to fall back on when others were struggling.

As a former at-home learner myself, I experienced the difficulties of finding socialization opportunities in an online format. By joining high school athletic programs, attaining employment, and attending meetups with other homeschoolers, I learned that even home-schooled students can ensure that they reap the benefits of socialization that their brick-and-mortar counterparts enjoy.

Be it walking through dashed collegial and romantic hopes, or navigating the power structures of adult relationships, high school provides an unmatched social environment in which students can gain crucial interpersonal skills that are left to decay in the digital world. By exposing themselves to different parts of the high school experience, young adults can boost their emotional intelligence in a world where technology continues to dehumanize the human condition.

Mark Kagi will be a junior at Polson High School this fall. He writes that he was motivated to submit this opinion piece because "as technologies like virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and even robotic human companions continue to advance, they threaten to remove us even further from each other." 

"I'm submitting to your publication because I believe this to be an important and relatively undiscussed issue that students across Lake County deserve to know about."