What If, There is One Common Value All Teen Girls Can Learn to Manage on Social Media?
Grannie asks: “Let me ask you another important question, somewhat based on this messy life spectacle. You understand that the future only appears as a vision and today is the only time you have to react to anything. What if you had the power to connect to the future to help direct your present actions to fulfill that future? I wonder what kind of choices you’d make … would they be the same? Excerpt: Teen Girl Faces Time in the Sand
As a retired teacher, aghast at some online and offline scenarios, always grounded in helping young people realize their potential, I began to research and write about today’s teen girls’ survival in virtual space. Sadly, I came across too many stories from news and personal experiences about cyber bullying, suicides, sexual texting and harassment, unwanted pregnancies and family breakdowns, drug addictions and other personal disasters.
What is a Belfie?
My heart breaks when I read: The sink shot: When a girl takes a selfie in a bathroom mirror, often in a thong, and poses with her behind propped against the sink, so that it will appear larger. Not surprisingly, Kim Kardashian popularized this sort of shot, also known as a “belfie,” or butt selfie. Nancy Jo Sales; “American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers”
As multi-faceted and complicated as the problems were, it was hard to find any teen girl’s autobiographical account of mass media stress because they do not have enough adult experience to write about trials and resolutions based on an incomplete timeline. I read of a few shattered dreams but there was only emptiness with no resolution. Gradually, my research began to coalesce around one common value all teen girls share whether they know it or not
An instant in a timeline…
The turning point pivoted on one description about the strangest Paradox of Time:
It can only be managed in a very small time frame called TODAY. And TODAY can sometimes be sparked by a tinier matter of CHOICE.
Herein lies the tragedy or the triumph. As tiny as choice may be, it holds the seeds of reaction, decision, habit and everything else in between. Doesn’t it make better sense to broaden the scope or power of this moment?
The common thread…
Therefore, the main goal and big question became how to tell a story about respecting TIME in simple terms. This was the one common thread that every teen girl could relate to: how am I wasting time or how am I using time wisely online? How about how much time I enjoy offline? This sense of time was not by measuring numbers, hours or days, but in managing the experiences that make a difference between the numbers. Every girl wants a good time leading to better times and success; nobody wants to look for having a bad time with worse consequences.
The challenge is how to deal with this unfiltered, unsupervised, unprecedented virtual suspension of normal social rites for teen girls entering into adulthood on the worldwide web.
“But time is only the medium not the victim here. It is a 14 year old girl who can become a victim because she can make a mistake that will affect her whole life. How fair is that? Is it her fault or is it the selfish culture around her? There must be a way to stop making the wrong choice at a young age.” Teen Girl Faces Time in the Sand
At 14, I knew I was a somebody in the 1960's…
It’s impossible not to compare my youth growing up in the 1960’s where our social order was planted with family and focused on education toward a responsible career. At 14, I knew I was a somebody who best spend my time respecting set boundaries with friends and role models who lived close by and mutually liked each other. My biggest problem was what skirt to wear to the high school prom and this small private zit only on my mirror. The first time I heard of something weird called intercourse was at 18 years in a grade 10 PE class by a counselor.
Preening, posting and priming…
Today, we watch in shock as so many 14 year-old girls preen, post and prime for role models to be a somebody on a social media scale to be evaluated and objectified by popular adult standards, unattainable except to the sensitive teenage brain fueled by dopamine likes and shares where a relationship can be started by sending a nude photo.
Just think, of a traditional folk tale about a young girl visiting her grandmother, facing a greedy wolf ready to devour her innocent youth. One heroine with one antagonist can be dealt with common sensibility when the wolf is destroyed by a neighbor. But how to combat a host of adversaries biting at your self-concept?
The monster antagonist…
As a new reality with social media, a young teenage girl needs to find her true self on a vast technological landscape which itself becomes the monster antagonist … not one villain but so many controlling forces imposing their pressure to be a somebody according to mass media standards. In many ways, this is an untenable and virulent attack on the developing adolescent brain which works differently than adult brains because it is guided more by “random exploration” and by the emotional and reactive amygdala than the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex. The average adults’ judgement rationale to make decisions is reached in their mid-twenties.
So how do you tell a story about innocence, curiosity and growing up in a rampaging, engulfing media circus where teen age girls also admit that there is a love / hate relationship with social media but do not want to stop because their lives would be empty? How do you prepare or protect yourself from this tragic onslaught with far implications for our culture where coming-of-age women are finding maturity from superimposed hype, failed expectations and ego-driven materialism? What are the long-term consequences on family and society? Could it possibly get worse?
The mission statement reverts back to Time:
If time can’t be replayed and only go forward, then the most precious commodity we have is Time Now and how to use it to its best value becomes essential.
The power of symbols…
Because every person’s timeline story is unique, it is necessary to use an analogy with the power of symbols to connect to the layers of the internet, both visible and invisible. The symbolic protagonist is an immature adolescent brain facing a symbolic antagonist of epic proportion known as the social media clown face.
More symbols help to encompass the meaning of Time beyond the literal meaning of counting hours or days. Yesterday’s past experiences are put in a box, today’s present moments are alive in a circle and future visions are open-ended lines. The timeline can be tangibly held in one’s hand. The moment of choice is seen as a spark on today’s circle as different from a decision or habit. The whole story is linked together with a personal super power tool to help make good choices relevant to past, present and future based on a set of questions.
“As brief as it might be, it is the matter of choice that makes it a superpower because it has the power to change the direction of your life. Nothing is more powerful with more consequences; so it’s a good thing to make it as smart as possible. I think we agree on making a strong, smart choice.” Excerpt: Teen girl Faces Time in the Sand
This story’s timeline happens in 3 days from the adoration of a “Selfie Celtie” to drug testing to recollections on a beach to an adolescent brain mixing it up with a social media nightmare, to a grandmother’s kindly introduction to a personal super power tool to manage the precious teen girl’s timeline. This short account has a pivot point where life can turn around with the right message and choice.
An Important Exercise if Time Matters
First, how can teenagers visualize holding their timelines, past, present and future in their hands? Second, why should a teenager be asked to quantify and qualify his or her time. Simple exercise:
Make two columns. Label one ONLINE TIME. List all the time and activities spent here on cellphones or other devices…anything taking more than 5 minutes of your time.
Label the second one OFFLINE TIME. List all the time and activities spent here without cellphones.
Qualify all activities with the letters:
SU… Sometimes Useful
NU… No Use … Waste of Time (WOT)
So, how do you think a teen girl might evaluate the ratio of results? Do you think she might be suffering from social media impositions? Is it time to talk about a new mindset to explore and enjoy the offline world all around us?
Questions and comments are always welcome…together we can find solutions in this radically different digital culture.
“There’s a strange magic begins to happen when you know that TIME controls a CHOICE and a HABIT, but HABIT is NOT THE SAME THING AS A CHOICE. A choice can happen in an instant. A habit will follow you as heavy and long as you want…
But this choice is instant, like a match flame. Ignite a wrong choice; it can lead to bad habits … even burn out your foundation who you want to be. Or you can make the right choice which becomes a stepping stone towards better habits and future.
Excerpts from Teen Girl Faces Time in the Sand: Timely Tale of Struggles, Regrets and Survival on Social Media.
Middle Schoolers Are More Suicidal Than Ever. Is Too Much Privacy to Blame? Why parents should think twice before granting kids absolute digital privacy?