I am a part of Generation Z, and I am terrified for my "chronically online" peers.
Social media provides us with so many things — access to knowledge, modes of self-expression and instant connection. But what older generations don't realize is the extent to which social media is defining childhood, adolescence and young adulthood for our developing generations. Tik Tok, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and even BeReal — these applications are more than just pastimes. They are the lens through which our younger generations view themselves and the world around them.
"Why is this so wrong?" This question deserves a comprehensive and thoroughly researched answer. But the truth is, this answer is still to be foretold. Social media has been around for the past few decades, but we are only beginning to see the effects it has on our culture, politics, identities, mental health and overall well-being. It is no question that too much social media use can lead to concerning mental health symptoms. But what really worries me is that the structure of social media encourages the creation of "identity bubbles" — environments that keep individuals interacting with like-minded others and like-minded information. Acclaimed developmental psychologists have found that challenging familial, peer and societal values and norms is essential for adolescent identity development. If people in my generation continue to live in their "bubbled" digital environments, how will their identities get the chance to explore our world in an authentically human manner?
Bailey Loso, Robbinsdale
With the recent talk of banning TikTok, it's fitting to talk about America's current issue of online privacy: the lack of consumer rights and data collection regulations. Our data is being used to create digital profiles that alter the way we are treated in criminal justice, education and health care systems.
While some states have instituted online privacy regulations, state laws prove to be ineffective in providing accurate protections as they generate confusion for companies and consumers, reflected in the fact that 63% of Americans understand little about the current regulations in place to protect consumer privacy, according to the same Pew Research poll. A federal online privacy law is needed to achieve clarity and consistent expectations for corporations. The European Union provides a blueprint for America with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law. The GDPR provides E.U. citizens with a list of privacy rights and holds companies accountable for upholding these rights with heavy fines. Such a law should be instituted in America in order to better protect Americans' right to privacy online.
We must hold Congress accountable to strengthen federal consumer privacy protections and data regulations.
Oliver Shoemaker, Minnetonka
Reform, or degeneration?
Prior to the passage of the risibly misnomered "Democracy for the People Act," the barriers against election fraud in Minnesota had already been set so low that it was exceedingly difficult to prove (or disprove) that this fraud was actually occurring. With the passage of the new act, these barriers have been set even lower.
The "long-needed reforms" introduced by the act and lauded by the Star Tribune Editorial Board ("Real progress made on election reform," May 12) include automatic registration when applying for a driver's license, preregistration for teens, universal mail-in voting and expanded voting rights for felons. (Of course, there's still no photo ID requirement, as this would inexplicably "make voting unnecessarily difficult.")
Secretary of State Steve Simon and the Editorial Board also see great value in capturing the votes of "the more than 400,000 Minnesotans [who] are eligible to vote but unregistered." If this cohort is too disinterested or apathetic to register on their own, it is unclear how their automatic registration will contribute anything to the commonweal.
While "Democracy for the People" is a great slogan, Minnesota's new voting act will cast a further pall of suspicion and doubt over the integrity of our future state and federal elections.
Peter D. Abarbanel, Apple Valley
2019 is gone for good
If Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and city planners are expecting a complete return to downtown high-rise offices, they haven't paid attention to how fast things can change dramatically and permanently when those changes deliver a superior result. My experience in the computer industry suggests that big and centralized cannot stand up to small and distributed when the work product is information. I knew the minute I got my first personal computer that the role of giant data processing centers was destined to decline and that a computer on every desk would be the future. Behemoths like IBM would fade and little companies like Apple would prosper.
The reason was simple. The personal computer puts ability directly under the control of the people doing the work.
Something similar is happening with the work-from-home movement that COVID spawned. It is convenient for the worker, and it is more productive. Management hates it because they have no effective way to micromanage workers. In fact, it obsoletes much of middle management. Add AI and middle management will disappear. But giant downtown office buildings are symbols of the old, obsolete centralized structure. Best think about how to convert those structures to other purposes. No company that wants to succeed in a business dependent on individual information workers is going to continue to invest in giant, ego-satisfying buildings when they can get the work done cheaper and faster by professionals working from home. People who earn six-figure salaries for managing offices better spruce up their resumes. Those jobs will vanish.
City planners need to find new ways to bring people downtown.
Robert Veitch, Richfield
No one will endure what we did
Thank you, Minnesota legislators, for passing paid medical and family leave for all Minnesotans — where we all will contribute and we all will benefit. I work part time in a school district and there is no paid leave. None. I was pregnant with triplets 22 years ago and, at the time, had a couple weeks of paid leave. Then I used short-term disability and finally unpaid leave to cover bed rest while pregnant, a C-section delivery and the early months with premature babies. Fortunately my husband had paternity leave at the time. There was no way we could have done this without some financial backing. This week, my triplets are graduating from three different universities in three states. I will attend all three — without paid time off! Looking forward to the implementation for others in January 2026.
Colleen Bayerl Simmons, Minneapolis
Humanity wins in Minnesota! I am so proud of our Legislature for passing paid family and medical leave. I've been testifying at House and Senate committee hearings in favor of this policy for workers since 2016. I'm excited that my daughters-in-law will never have to go through what I did when I gave birth in 1985. I was fired for following my doctor's orders to not go back to work at five weeks postpartum. Thank you to all the PFML advocates who fought so hard to win this benefit. It's a good day for Minnesotans. Organizing works!
Mary Jo Malecha, New Brighton