By: Naomi Metoyer
In a world of innovation and technology, the young generations isolate themselves further from the norms of previous generations. The demands of keeping up social media personas, standards, and ideals have nearly ruined our entire society.
Endless new trends on apps like Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram not only threaten the development of the future generations, but also subject users to a backtracking means of conformity. I know because I have fallen into the same trap.
Kids of today use Snapchat, have hundred dollar phones, and talk in acronyms. People find courage on the Internet more than they would ever have in a physical, face-to-face conversation. A life can be made or destroyed in 140 characters, one ten second video, a single picture.
When I was twelve, everyday after school I would climb the tree in my front yard with my siblings, despite Arizona monsoon seasons or wind chapped cheeks in the winter or our mom’s prodding for us to “come in and do our chores”. Sometimes we would play hide-and-seek-tag with all the house lights off or play “Store” with Monopoly money. The only television we would watch had a specific time set to it, and most of the time we would make our own fun anyways.
But look around. Do you see kids climbing trees or being creative if it isn’t involving the promise of television or phone games? Sometimes I look outside my house at our neighborhood park to middle schoolers sitting at the bench on their iPhones, snapping pictures of the scenery instead of actually enjoying it.
Couples at my school who, rather than appreciate the moments they have and the company they share with one another, sit together, face down, mindlessly tapping at their phones. I can’t recall a serious relationship I didn’t see thrown across Instagram or Twitter for all to see, and even some who lack any real connection off screen. I know people who do not like me or are rather fond of me, that have never once spoken a single word to my face. Everyday people experience real life loneliness, hardship, and mental illness, yet in the face of a generation who either minimizes, dramatizes, or publicizes emotion, they are brushed off.
The children of the new generations are in the most danger. According to thegaurdian.com , a new study on the activities of eight to twelve year olds finds that “20%.. have never once climbed a tree.” In the same study, it was discovered that, “64% of kids today… [play] outside less than once a week.” How have we gone from the days of being pulled from a tree, a park, a game to being pushed into it? Going outside, for my siblings and I, was always a privilege to be earned. Now, this fundamental of my early childhood is a chore.
Not only do the younger have trouble connecting to nature and other age appropriate activities, but their social skills also seem to be in danger. Some truly believe sending an emoji rather than employing physical words or actions accurately describes their emotions. Genuine emotions and natural interaction are lost to this new standard. Conversation is stunted and empty. Emotions are simplified and generalized. Is this normal?
Beyond this, social media forces individuals to question their identity and favor a collective idea of “normal”. For a world that has so embraced the idea of moving beyond stereotypes, distinguishments, and other limiting factors, when it comes to social networking, all of this progress is somehow lost in translation.
A person’s image has now been confined to what the internet agrees it should be. Things like emotions, personal and body image, and individual ideas are all lost to the new age.
When it comes to self image, we are becoming more lost every day. Women with small waists and size 0 pants despise curvy Instagram models, of who resent magazine models without tummies or large hips. Men are expected to keep up the same image as those always at the gym for fear of insult, and those in the gym are at risk of being made a joke for their hard work.
Beyond physical, the social norms of today all but embrace dullness. Nowadays, texting and even physical talking are reduced to the same small talk and boring conversation starters that don’t really start anything. Where’s all the real talk? Why doesn’t anyone ask about the hard things, the things that need to be talked of? Why do we shy away from the real interesting aspects of someone? Why ask their favorite movie or book or subject when you could ask why they care about it so much? But no, that’s not how people talk. Not in this day and age, where the only thing you can ask someone is “wyd?”.
And then there’s the condemning of breaking this very mold. This new age of social detachment condemns those who strive for a career they have passion for, express beliefs or cultures others don’t comprehend, share emotions some can’t relate to, or address issues everyone shies from. How many can agree that they do not feel they can be themselves? How many times have you been brushed aside with the not so reassuring “same” or “me too” phrases that do nothing but make you feel worse? How many times have you been judged based on your clothes, your hair, your ideas, your opinions, your likes and dislikes, your personality? Yeah, me too.
Our world is so complex and yet so simple as well. We are people with emotions and ideas and creativity. This new standard, or expectation, that one needs the addition of social media or technology to validate their worth, is upsetting when all it does is water them down.
You don’t have to abandon this outlet because it definitely does have its uses. Yes, it does connect you to the people you aren’t in contact with. Yes, it can lighten your mood. It can offer opportunities and the chance to meet new people and discover more about yourself. But finding or holding on to an aspect of your life does not mean giving up the rest of it. You can spread the word about a new idea or product or even yourself without conceding the entirety of your attention and time toward that one outlet.
In a study from sources such as Pew Research Center and eMarketer, the actual time individuals use their phones per day reports to be “4 hours, 5 minutes.” That’s nearly 130 hours of phone usage per month. Most people don’t get this much exercise, yet they brush over this aspect of daily life as normal, almost healthy.
Even worse, some people exceed this limit, concede even more for people and trends they will not care for in the long run. Although connections can be made over the internet, is it worth giving up the relationships you can have with people you can really see, hear, touch, or know? Yes, some friendships can be built over the use of outlets such as social media, but it does nothing to excuse the excessiveness of today’s internet use.
Do not ignore your family for some likes and comments. Do not replace your true friends for random people you’ve never met.
Put your phone down, turn it off. It will still be there when you’re done finding your life again.