You only have how many followers? Isn’t that purse from like, 3 seasons ago? What YEAR is that CAR?
In an era of our species where we are supposed to be more connected to each other than ever before, we are facing some unintended consequences. And, for the youth of our generation who are experiencing this all for the first time, it can be confusing and depressing.
Humans are social animals who thrive off of emotional connection and understanding. We crave being around others (most of the time) and feeling acceptance into a tribe. Eons of biological evolution have installed instincts within us that feed the most primal parts of our brains. When we feel rejection, there may be a deeper meaning at work that is telling us we are going to be cast out into the cold and be eaten by a bear.
Much like you can’t walk 10 miles into the woods and walk back out in 1 mile, we cannot reverse our internal wiring at the pace our society is evolving. Our youth knows no other reality than documenting every waking moment on social media, and gauging their worth by how many people are interested in these moments.
For this reason, we are turning in on ourselves. Instead of building real, genuine bonds with other human beings, we are simply working on presenting an image that we think other people will like. Literally. Like, and comment on, and share.
When this activity wanes, so does our self worth. And when it is nonexistent, we turn to the famous to get our fix.
We idolize the Kardashians while being unable to recognize Nikolai Tesla in a lineup. We want entertainment over education. Swag over substance. Deep pockets over deep conversations.
And, it is killing us. Literally.
Unless you are accepted into the popular crowd, our youth is growing up even more isolated than they were in the past. At least we could play with the neighborhood kids in the street until sundown on a school night, even if we spent the day being bullied by our classmates.
At least we had a sanctuary from the ridicule and insults. No internet or social media, meant there was no way to be bullied when you were in your own home after school.
Today, you are literally a sitting target no matter where you are. There is no escape.
And, on top of that, many parents are so financially stressed about paying their bills with rising costs of living, the stability of home life and a solid family core has faltered as well.
With nowhere to turn and nobody to listen, we have to ask ourselves how our youth is going to respond. Honestly, I don’t think there is an answer yet, because we have never been here before. There is no long term case study to show how a person develops in the information age, because nobody has been alive long enough to tell us.
I am honest enough with myself to know that if I had Facebook when I was in school, it would’ve been a nightmare. I would’ve been constantly distracted and would have found it very difficult to concentrate. Then again, I wasn’t exactly a model student.
But for the masses of children who do have Snapchat and Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and just want to create a life that looks great on the outside — we must ask ourselves if anyone is teaching them to create a life that feels good on the inside.
I enjoy material possessions just as much as the next person. I have been a car fanatic since I was a kid, and I dream of someday owning a Tom Ford suit (Hey Tom, in case you’re reading…) but I understand that those things are simply bonuses to represent the hard work you’ve put into your life. Something you’re passionate about (hopefully) that brings you a variety of types of success.
The problem arises when we are told by the world that our very worth as a human being is reliant upon our ability to achieve such material riches. What about helping those in need? What about making a change? What about standing up for the oppressed against the oppressors?
Here is why I am hopeful about our future, though: The younger generations want different things than the older. I think a lot of them are less driven by the dollar, and more driven by the fulfillment.
Millennials want beer on tap in the workplace. They want dogs in the office. They want to wear their jeans and t-shirts to their marketing meetings. They value the quality and balance of life over the higher salary.
For this reason, they will be less controlled and driven by money. They will be less swayed by corporate bribes. They will be less controlled by those who only hold on to their power because of the vulnerable who are making the decisions.
And, we can hope, this will cause them to reconnect with their human roots, and with each other.
Why do we not teach the psychology of happiness as a requirement in school? We can take electives or study on our own, but why are we so focused on pushing people through a system that will never serve them if they don’t ever understand how to serve themselves?
We must connect with our youth. Speak to them. Listen to them. Help them understand the progression of life and that things do get better if they’re feeling hopeless.
The bullies will grow up and go to different colleges (or none at all), and never be heard from again. The awkwardness will straighten out. You’ll lose your “baby fat” (thank goodness I lost…some…of mine), and things will get better.
But if we have nobody to tell our youth that, how will they ever know? And if they don’t think things will ever change, they will feel doomed to a life and a world that will never understand or listen to them — let alone have the ability to understand themselves.
Often times this leads to violent harm against others, or against themselves. Neither is acceptable.
I am not a licensed counselor, but I encourage you to reach out to me directly if you or someone you know is being bullied, or feels depressed and lost. I would be happy to get on the phone with you/them or even sit down in person if we are local.
I grew up overweight and picked on. I didn’t have many friends. I never had any dates to dances until I was almost out of high school. My car would be repeatedly vandalized in the parking lot.
I may not be licensed, but I am experienced. I have learned what I needed to do in order to grow past the negative influences of life and those who bully and harass. Believe me, I still get harassed online consistently.
For that reason, I want to open my doors to you or those you care about if you want to talk. I will be a sounding board or give my input, whichever you prefer.
Sometimes, all we need is a little bit of a connection to know that someone is listening.
Offer a listening ear to someone today. You may be the only person who does.