Think of the last time you went to a really fun party. Now think of the last time you stayed in at night to eat take-out and watch Netflix. The latter choice likely has occurred more often than not for most people of the millennial generation in comparison to preceding generations. Are young people still going to parties and socializing as often as those before when they have access to so much media at their fingertips?
In the New York Times article “Death of the Party,” Teddy Wayne argues that today’s young people are socializing less and less in real life and uses the party to exemplify his point. He attributes some of this drop in social activity to external factors such as the fact that students are spending so much more time studying and preparing for rigorous college requirements or the issue of the economy causing people to live far away from each other in really small apartments that make large gatherings inconvenient. However, these issues cannot compare to the effect that technology and social media has had on the social life of today’s young person.
Some of the statistics that Wayne presents are quite alarming. 41.3% of high school students in 2014 have never been to a party compared to 11.6% in 1987. Additionally, the percentage of people who participated in these sorts of social activities has decreased from 7.1% to 4.1% from 2003 to 2014. Wayne presents a firsthand opinion:
“I can imagine trying to throw a big party,” Mr. Friedman said, “inviting a bunch of people on Facebook and counting the RSVPs who said ‘attending,’ and then watching them text me one by one that night that they’re just too tired to make it. Texting makes flaking out extremely simple.”
This quote from the article perfectly exemplifies how social media has made it extremely easy to cancel social obligations at the last minute. From personal experience in college and high school, Wayne appears to have a genuine point about his assertions about the drop of social activity. The fact that apps such as Tinder, MeetUp, and NYU Hookups exist to create connections seems to be a cry for help since people have become terrible at creating these connections in real life, nor do they want to put in the effort. Many young people would rather take the easy way out on a Saturday night and sit at home staring at their computer screen then to have to drag themselves out at 11pm to some crappy party out in Bushwick (often understandably so). Even if people do end up going out, they are most likely on their phones for the majority of the night instead of connecting with the people around them.
Additionally, this ever-constant “flaking out” phenomenon is nothing new. In the past, I have expected ten to twenty friends to come to a party I was attending, but oftentimes almost every person bails at the last minute. Occasionally, if I go out to meet a someone at a bar, I’ll end up waiting there for twenty minutes until I get a text that says “Sorry I’m not feeling up for it anymore.” Once that happens a few times, you stop trying. At a school such as NYU for example, this phenomenon has become even more prevalent since NYU never had much of a community even before the effects of technology.
Twenty years ago, if you weren’t socializing in college, there was not much else you could be doing. Wayne brings up the point that over a third of Gen X high school students actually “fought for their right to party.” However, today young people spend so much more time alone in their room since everyone’s Iphone, tablet, or computer has access to practically everything. Many people need a pretty convincing reason to leave the comfort of their own room nowadays. Even if they do agree to go to a party, a large percentage of people will end up changing their minds because it has become so easy to do so.
This is not to say that people never go to parties or socialize in 2015. We’re not at the point yet where everyone is in a relationship with their operating system like in Spike Jonze’s film Her. However, the author of the article has a serious point about how parties and socializing offline have significantly decreased in recent years. He even cites Putnam’s Bowling Alone as further evidence of this decline. Since technology will likely become more and not less prevalent in the near future, it is logical to assume that social interaction will decrease even further unless people think of more innovative ways to bridge the gap between online and real lives.
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