When did it become cool to have a longing for constant validation from others?
I know that I am not alone when it comes to my concern about the amount of time that children and teenagers are spending using their mobile phones.
The reality of this was brought home to me last year, whilst delivering a children’s etiquette class to a group of international children aged between eight and twelve.
The particular subject being taught was the importance of being a good guest when invited to a friend’s house for a sleepover. The conversation was surrounding the challenging moment, for both children and parents, of ‘lights out’.
The young ladies proudly informed me that it is not an issue for them, as they continue using their mobile phones for their social media platforms, often until after 2am. Now, I know that things have changed, and the evenings of dancing around our bedrooms to the Grease soundtrack are gone, but this news concerned me.
These children were below the minimum age of thirteen for platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, but let’s be honest, this desire probably equates to me managing to ‘get in’ to watch a fifteen-rated film when I was thirteen.
The difference, however, is that whilst I may have been exposed to inappropriate content for two hours, perhaps twice a year, these children are being exposed to inappropriate content for, what could be, hours every day.
When I talk about inappropriate content, I am not just referring to potential sexual issues, I am also referring to the FOMO pandemonium (fear of missing out) whereby young adults are being influenced into thinking that these beautiful images are people’s real lives, resulting in them comparing themselves, and feeling less than adequate or content with their looks, their clothes, their social lives…the list is endless.
I have experienced this in real life over and over again. I see both children and adults ‘staging’ a moment to create an image of glamour, success and perfection. Never being in the moment, and living their life through social media. We must try all we can to ensure our young adults understand this illusion, but that is another subject.
So, what can we do right now? Telling a child or teenager not to do something is normally the most effective method of ensuring they pursue it more. So I am suggesting a different approach. One that our culture seems to have forgotten. The concept of keeping some mystery.
There is an air of desperation suffocating our society. When did it become cool to have such a longing for constant validation from others?
During my classes for teenagers I cover the all-important subject of modern technology, and include subjects such as internet safety, good manners in the online world, cyber bullying, and what to do if it is happening to you or someone else, and of course social networking etiquette.
But I also teach my teenage clients the concept of unavailability. Do you remember that approach? The idea of ‘treat them mean, keep them keen’ is slightly extreme, accept for matters of the heart of course, but it also reminds us that as human beings we tend to desire something that is slightly out of reach.
My underlying message to my teenage clients is this:
Get out in the world and live your life, be in the moment, don’t be so desperate on social media that it looks like you have nothing else to do.
Sure, take photos and upload them later; you are of course far too busy enjoying your life to have the opportunity to do it on the spot.
There is nothing wrong with using social media as a means of connecting with others, but it should not be your main goal in life.
And most importantly? Keep some mystery. Be cool!