The cyber world and the advancements in technology have resulted in many changes to the way we connect with others. Whilst many of the changes have meant greater ease and access to our connections, we know too, that our kids are susceptible to some of the downfalls. One of which, I believe, is the need to be ‘switched on’ socially……all the time.
With a vast majority of our kids’ socialising occurring online via social networks, it would seem that this constant contact allows for very little downtime. Very little time to ‘not care’ what they are doing or saying, who they are hanging out with, or what they are listening to or watching. The popularity of portable devices means that even late at night, early in the morning and at any time of the day, there is very little time to unwind and just ‘be’. Much of what they do is shared. And much of what they do appears to need validation. You only need to follow a few teenagers on Instagram to see the constant requests to “like me, follow me, click if you think I’m pretty, smart, funny, cool or if you are my “bestie”. These kids are not wanting ‘likers’ and ‘followers’ to fulfil any corporate marketing strategy. It is just followers for followers sake. Or for stats. Or for status. Or too look popular.
For a good majority of the time these requests are harmless. Just a bit of banter between friends and followers. Kids have always wanted to ‘ft in’, be popular and be liked. For those young people that place real self worth on everything that happens online however, it can have more disastrous consequences. For the person that asks “am I pretty?” only to be told “no”, or to the teen that has no response to a request for ‘likers’, the damage can be devastating. The need to appeal to people they hardly know and possibly don’t know at all, can be completely disproportionate to the validation they could get from those that are real and active participants in their lives.
And this is not a problem that is isolated to young people. I have seen many adults become disheartened and even depressed about the lack of interaction with something they have said online.
People who lament that noone talks to them on twitter start believing they are boring or worthless.
It is so important to build our sense of self offline. We need to encourage our kids participation with friendship, sporting or community groups that build their self worth based on real life interaction and achievements. Whilst the online world is where a good majority of their socialising is done, it must not be the sole source of their connections.