If you were born in the 21st century there are a few things that have been ever-present in your life that are unprecedented in any other generation. The most prevalent of which being the internet.
Some facts of life have never changed – like the adolescent experiences of boy drama, bullying and trying to fit in. However, the monolith that is social media is often alien territory to our parental units.
Advice like “ignore it and in a few weeks all the girls at school will be talking about something else,” is no longer relevant when embarrassing moments can get passed from timeline from timeline, and the next thing you know you’re on the face of 100 meme accounts. What life experience or advice can your parents give for when you become a meme?!
Not much, unfortunately. It seems as though for every self-love and positive body image account online there is the a pro-Ana (pro Anorexia) account lurking in order to reel in young people.
More often than not, our parents are unaware that this content exists, not to mention they’re oblivious to the implications of it. Back in the day you could throw away all your magazines that were harboring your negative body image and hopefully find some degree of respite for the constant feelings of self-doubt.
Nowadays, what power does the average 12-year-old have over analytics feeding them negative messages about themselves every time they pick up their cellphones?
Some parents think the answer is simple: avoid giving kids smartphones all together. They don’t understand how much being the only kid in the class without one can leave you feeling extremely alienated.
Not to mention that many teachers, clubs and extracurriculars require you to be constantly plugged in to “GroupMe” chats, not to mention the dreaded Remind 101 even after school hours.
Therefore, offering no social media or internet access as the solution to this is grossly underestimating the nuances of how social media influences the answer to the age-old “who belongs?” question.
I have witnessed first-hand the anxiety felt by fellow highschool students who break their phones and are stripped of their main outlet of creativity and social connection. So, where is the equilibrium between the online interconnectedness, social change, expression and creativity that comes with social media and the predatory culture that can be too much to handle for young people that exist there.
Quite frankly, I’m grappling with that question as I witness my younger siblings and friends use social media to thrive in their creative and social lives with the fear of negative content and cyberbullying in the back of my head.
Perhaps the solution lies in having an open conversation about it. A conversation where our elders listen to our youth and find a common ground on an individual basis, and seeing which tidbits of life advice apply in this ever-changing world. And maybe we’ll all end up a little closer.