Connection vs Loneliness: The Tech Effect
The dependence of today’s youth on internet relations is hurting their mental and developmental health. Extending internet relations into the classroom in the form of college, career and project learning guides offers educators a powerful resource, but these internet voices can also add to students' sense of social isolation and present an internal challenge to their self efficacy. To counter this sense of isolation, educators can integrate alumni and community voices with their technology programs- demonstrating to students that they too have the power and ability to achieve their college and career goals.
In a survey of 1,700 adults aged 19 to 32, those who reported to spend the most time on social media had (more than 2 hours per day) had twice the odds of perceived social isolation.
The iGen or Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2012), are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet.
Despite the spikes in likes, 54% of iGen believe they always or sometimes feel as though nobody knows them well, and 56% believe that the people around them "are not necessarily with them". And 2 in 5 felt like “they lack companionship,” that their “relationships aren’t meaningful” and that they “are isolated from others.”
Alumni can help untangle these chords of isolation. Inviting near peer alumni back into their old classroom will shift relationships from desktop to deskside.
Alumni are the inspiring role models, near peer college advocates, STEM mentors, career partners and project learning supporters students need to feel engaged and connected to their high school to college (or career) transition. Alumni personify a future students can see themselves in.
Knowing that someone in their community cares about them and is willing to mentor them through challenges to find success is what students need. As relatable and empathetic mentors, alumni reflect the diversity of their alma mater’s students. Alumni have lived in the same communities as today’s students and therefore have the real-world roadmaps to success specific to the unique dynamics of each community. This shared experience creates the foundation of trust essential to successful mentorships.
As program partners for public high schools alumni can be:
- Motivational role models
- Near-peer college guides
- Career/STEM Mentors
- Project Learning Partners
- Business Partners
- Committee Members
- Community Advocates
- Funders / Supporters
During our pilot program, over 900 students participated in alumni activities. 92% of students said alumni feedback was helpful to them.
In a time when young people are feeling more disconnected to those around them, it’s time to reimagine alumni engagement to inspire today’s high school students and their futures.