Thursday, May 21, 2015

The world can change in a second (Robbie Williams)

This guest post comes from one of my students. My thanks to Hannah for allowing me to share this with the blogosphere:

We are all so busy faking it that no one is stopping to enjoy the experience

Our generation is the first to be so completely immersed and exposed to social-media.  Going out to dinner with friends is now a difficult task due to the fact I have to fight with a cellphone for their attention. I challenge people to go out and look around a cafĂ©, a place once used for family bonding and friends gossiping. It is now a haven for young girls to take photos of their food to post on Instagram; friends next to them ignored while they message to people on Facebook that would be ignored too if placed in the same room. As young people it is no longer about having fun. It’s about putting all our time and energy into making it seem like we’re having fun to everyone else who are of course, glued to social-media doing the exact same thing.

Social-media has been defined as the many relatively inexpensive and widely accessible electronic tools that enable anyone to publish and access information, collaborate on a common effort, or build relationships. Build relationships? I can’t think of a more opposite way to describe how we are using social-media as a generation. Our brains are full of things we don’t need to know. Is it really important that I’m aware that my auntie’s husband’s distant cousin is getting married? I don’t think so, but this is what I’d probably learn if I were browsing a Facebook newsfeed. Facebook and other similar sites are fountains of knowledge about the lives of people that we are likely to have met only once.

We let strangers know where we are for dinner, the names of all our close friends and family, our school and where we live. They have access to all this pointless information that they would only really want to know if they planned on stalking us.  So why is it that so many girls my age want to post their personal details and portraits online. Well it all comes down to this – attention. As young people we are all stuck with the idea that (sorry to be clichĂ©) the world revolves around us. As much as we would love this to be true it’s not, but having a couple of hundred people you don’t know on a social-media site complimenting every one of your pictures sure makes us feel like it is. Teenagers crave attention. Whether we are obvious about it or not, we are in an awkward stage where all we want is to be reassured that our flaws mean nothing and that we are truly wonderful human beings. Social-media can help us with that.

Although people may see this is a positive, I totally disagree. Yes there is the girl who gets constantly told she is beautiful and perfect but when she falls in love she will probably be ditched as she is always searching for attention and if she doesn’t get it she’s irrationally insecure. Or the boy who gets bullied at school and is sent abusive messages daily that eventually lead him to think that he is worth so little that he kills himself. Either way it’s not helping anyone.

When we do not have our posts acknowledged in a positive way by those who we consider friends it can lead to feelings of inadequacy. We start to doubt that friendship in a way we never would if not for social-media. If say someone was having a conversation with a friend over Facebook and one said something unintentionally offensive to the other, there is no time to think before acting. In an angry and upset immediate response something could be said that would cause a massive argument between friends just because one message got misinterpreted.

Often our immediate reaction to something negative that has been said to us is far more irrational and dramatic then it is when we have calmed down and thought things through. That is exactly where instant messenger apps go wrong. Not to mention the fact that it is far easier to admit personal feelings or say something hurtful to someone via keyboard than it is face to face. I believe this is a huge downfall for our generation. The conversations that are most private and personal are the exact conversations we should have while talking not texting, messaging or using any other form of social-media. Otherwise how are we supposed to communicate properly, in friendships, family, romance or in a work place? We need to be capable of sharing our honest and unguarded selves in person not over the Internet.

What else does more social-media mean? It means loving ourselves less. While we are so hung up on the opinion of others, how many likes a photo on Instagram got or who commented on our profile picture, we don’t realize that we’re letting our own opinion of ourselves become less significant. When we give power to others who ‘follow’ us on social-media sites we lose strength in ourselves. Teens are often insecure, and this is just fueling the fire. There is no need for social-media at all. My parents got along fine when they were my age and all they had was an exchange of one letter a week between New Zealand and England. They didn’t however have the constant instant gratification that our generation does. In other words – when we want something we want it now. I’m not sure if this attitude came before apps like instant messenger or those apps fueled the whole thing in the first place. Yet, it doesn’t really matter because in my eyes it’s always going to have a negative impact on our generation.

Busying ourselves with taking photos of a place we have barely looked at ourselves so we can show all our ‘friends’ what a great time we’re having is not only ridiculous it’s sad. The biggest issue these social-media sites cause can be summed up in five words – not living in the moment. It may sound cheesy but it saddens me. The fact that we are all so busy faking it that no one is stopping to enjoy the experience. Some things in life should be seen or heard by one person a secret memory that you can store in your mind not on the Internet. After all if the view is that beautiful, the food is that amazing or you’re having the time of your life you wouldn’t be thinking about what caption to put on your Instagram post!

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