Hi, my name is Shelby, and I’m a Millennial. This means I am addicted to my phone, my laptop, my iPad, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and Twitter, right? Partially. I’ll admit, I’m on Facebook for a large majority of my day, but there’s a reason for that; I run a business through my Social Media. Twitter has lost my interest. Instagram is overwhelming, but I still post my own pictures. SnapChat is an absolute blast, especially the Food Network Discovery SnapChat. And I’ve gone hours without my phone before, and I’ve been fine, but the keyword there is hours….
Okay, okay, I’m a pretty typical 22 year-old. I’m not ashamed of my Internet use. It’s just something I grew up with. I got my first cell phone when I was 11, it was an absolute clunker, but it was the most coveted possession I had at the time. That was the same year I made my very first MySpace, and man oh man, I was the MySpace QUEEN. I taught myself HTML, I would spend hours, and I mean, HOURS on that site, whether it was finding a new layout, editing my information, re-arranging my top eight, or just reading and reposting chain bulletins. I, one time, spent an entire vacation just editing my MySpace (granted, we were in the Caribbean and it poured every. single. day.), but still, I was a full-blown MySpace Addict.
However, my addiction back then is nothing close to the addictions of today’s youth. Smartphones and Social Media rule these kids’ worlds. Despite my “love and curiosity” for the blossoming emergence of Social Media when I was in Middle School, I still made ample time to play outside and build relationships with my neighbors and friends from the area.
But now….oh, but now, the youth is SO much different. Interactions with one another come in the form of “SnapChat Streaks” and self-esteem comes in the form of “Instagram Likes”.
I was at a Church group a few weeks ago, and we were doing an “ice-breaker” activity; we all stood in a circle and took turns answering the question, “If it was a snowday tomorrow, what would we do?” All of the Adults in the room (by adult, I mean, over 30) answered similarly: “I would cook/ clean/ drink hot cocoa with/for my family.” Okay, fair enough. I mean, I’d hope my parents would do the same thing, especially if we’re talking about home-made chili.
All of the Young Adults, the ones between the ages of 18 and 30, answered similarly, as well: “I’d go skiing/ snowboarding/ sledding.” Again, pretty typical, considering snowdays during elementary school for this age group did not consist of any advanced technology (unless you count those super rad sleds that had steering wheels and brakes). And then, as we got to all the children. One by one, they spoke about texting their friends and playing on their Xbox. There was not ONE mention of playing outside with their friends, EXCEPT for the one kid who’s mother shot him the nastiest look when he said “play on my cell phone,” and he quickly changed his answer to “play outside”.
So what does this all mean? Or at least, what do I think it means?
Social Media is seriously altering our youth’s prime developmental stages. And I say this as a 22-year-old senior at University of Delaware, who is highly vested in her own forms of social media (helllllooooo LinkedIn!). But I am also saying this as the grown-up version of the little girl who used to run around her neighborhood, commandeering all of the kids to play a giant game of manhunt until our parents literally had to join the game to find us to bring us home for dinner.
That kind of stuff just simply doesn’t happen anymore, and it’s sad. The relationships I built around my neighborhood are still in my life today, and some of my best memories are getting lost in the woods behind my house, fishing in the creek in my backyard, and playing hide ‘n seek with all the neighbors.
It seems as though all of the relationships are cultivated through some form of social media, and while I see the allurement of all the different sites and apps, I also have a deep discomfort lying within me knowing that our youth is missing out on some of the most pivotal times in their life, all because they are busy building this online profile, and paper trail, of their young life.
Ages 11-18 are truly an important stage in our life. Yes, it goes by in a flash of a second, but it also teaches us so many of the lessons that we carry into our adult life. This time period is the time period of growth, both physical and mental. It’s the time of hormones, and infatuation. Drama and Cliques. Boyfriends and Girlfriends. First Kisses, First Dates, First Loves. Driver’s Licenses and Rebellion.
And unfortunately, ALL of this is being aired on Social Media, for the whole world to see. And that’s because Social Media is all these kids know, but can we blame them? Absolutely not. We do it too. I do it, too. However, I have a much stronger “hindsight” ability now, then I did back when I was in Middle School. And honestly, thank GOD that MySpace has become such a thing of the past, because if my MySpace from Middle School was uncovered somehow, I would probably have a lot of explaining to do.
I’m not here to say that Social Media is a bad thing for our youth, because I grew up with it, too, and I’ve turned out fine, more than fine, actually. But, it’s a little scary to see the dependence these children have on their phones and social media accounts in today’s time, because it’s a much larger dependence than I ever had when I was their age. And I can only begin to imagine their dependency when they get to my age. My only hope is that us 20-something Millennials watch closely and lead by example when it comes to Social Media consumption; there is a time and place for everything…remember that.
You can hear more about Social Media and the impact it’s having on teenage girls from Nancy Jo Sales, best selling author of The Bling Ring and her newest, American Girls – Social Media And The Secret Lives Of American Teenage Girls at #ConnectToConfidence on May 21, 2016. Find out more [here].