Joe Biden to Grads: Stop Living in Your Screens

The former vice president on the dangers of technology.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has a message for graduates: Get offline and look up at the world around you.

Biden addressed Cornell University’s class of 2017 for commencement on May 27th, highlighting how our screen-centric society affects our success, happiness and sense of self.

“The people I’ve known who are successful and happy are the people who treat others with the same dignity that they demand for themselves,” Biden said, adding “to do that, you will have to fight the urge to build a self-referential, self-reinforcing and self-righteous echo chamber of yourself online.”

It’s no secret that screens (especially social media) warp our sense of self and others, something that Biden points out is especially dangerous at a time when “others” — marginalized communities — are at increased risk in America.

Screenshot courtesy of YouTube

“Living in your screens encourages shallow and antiseptic relationships that make it easy to reduce the ‘other’ to stereotypes. They’re not flattened versions of humanity. They’re a whole person: Flawed, struggling to make the world better, just like you. To make it in the world, just like you.”

In an era where our President is tweeting at 3 a.m., it’s fitting that Biden’s speech was centered on our digital identities.

The best solution to the problems Biden outlined? Take your conversations offline. Whether it’s chatting with a friend with similar views or confronting a rogue uncle who wants to hash it out in the comments section, fostering real, in-person conversations about difficult topics can help you listen with empathy, or move beyond just reaffirming opinions and help you brainstorm viable action.

Read the full commencement address on The Ithaca Voice.