We’ve all seen the numerous blog posts on annoying Facebook statuses. Some of them are quite clever and make us shout, “RIGHT ON!” or “Wait..I do that. What’s wrong with that?! SMH” Whether we do them or not, we all know someone who does and have an opinion about it.
What is it about the over-shares, cryptic cries for help, or passive aggressive posts that really bugs us? It seems attention-getting or often like public revenge. Things that should be shared with a select few (and even better, in person), are broadcast to hundreds through social media. Basically, it seems immature, and despite privacy settings, there are many people who believe that what we put out there will stay for anyone to find.
This, my friends, is why teenagers and social media are a very bad combination.
Teenagers by their very nature are immature, emotionally charged beings. They live in world between worlds where they are leaving childish games behind while figuring out what it means to be an adult, while at the same time hormones and brain chemistry make logical thought nearly impossible. Whose idea was it to give them a public outlet to air these feelings?
It used to be that if you had a problem with someone you passed a nasty note in class, or had your friends shun them in the hall. If you were annoyed with a member of the opposite sex, they received exaggerated eye rolls or daggers during class, they endured gossip between you and your friends, and maybe they even got a prank or angry phone call later that evening (but you had to be civil long enough to ask Mr. Miller if Brad was available). I suppose there were those who stooped to egging or TP-ing. All actions that are here one minute and gone the next.
With cell phones and social media, a conflict between two people can be texted to hundreds in seconds, or a nasty meme posted to Instagram to be seen and liked by half your high school. Harassment issues have skyrocketed. Boys and girls alike sharing private pictures through massive group texts for the purpose of humiliation. Or a conversation that would have been confined to school hours, or the house phone can continue indefinitely through texting. I’ve had to take phones away from my kids because the person on the other end sent text after text and wouldn’t stop even when asked to. My daughter turned her phone off and when she turned it back on an hour later had 70 new texts from the same person.
I recently read this article on the dangers of teen girls and Instagram. It pointed out how their self-esteem becomes wrapped up in pictures they post and how many likes they receive. It becomes a popularity contest of sorts, with its own currency. The article states: “As they become preteens, research shows that girls’ confidence takes a nosedive. Instagram, then, is a new way for girls to chase the feeling of being liked that eludes so many of them. Instagram becomes a popularity meter and teens learn to manipulate the levers of success.”
The intricate ways teens use these apps for validation astound me. The article didn’t mention the most obvious one: en emoji chart where each emoticon means something like: pretty, fun, spirited, talented, etc. You post the chart on your page and then your friends pick which ones describe you and post it in the comments. I suppose this is harmless enough. I remember the papers we passed around at youth events with your own name at the top. Each person wrote something nice about you, folded it over, and passed it to the next person. The difference? When the paper returned to you, it was for your eyes only. And everyone in the circle participated.
With Instagram, girls are determining their self worth based on the number of positive responses…and all responses are public for everyone to see and judge.
Unfortunately this post does not come with answers. I’m still working through this dilemma. I have three teenagers and all of them use cellphones, and various forms of social media. I monitor their pages, ask to see their texts sporadically, and we have hard talks about what should and should not be posted. But I can’t monitor their emotions. I can’t develop a spreadsheet comparing “Time on Social Media and Effect on Self Esteem and Personal Happiness.”
My sad suspicion would be that it doesn’t come out in their favor.