Teens and social media
I can still remember the moment my parents purchased their first cell phone. Complete with a beautiful leather briefcase, this brick…err, I mean phone, quickly became the talk of the family. We finally had something else to do in the station wagon besides listening to cassette tapes of Neil Diamond’s greatest hits.
Oh, how things have changed. Now my two year-old daughter can navigate my iPhone like a seasoned veteran. Mobile technology is no longer confined to a handheld device that required an extra seat in your car for storage. We can literally communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time from the palm of our hand. No briefcase required. This is a good thing, right?
If you are a parent of a teenager, then suffice it to say that you may have differing opinions regarding the use of cell phones. While I marvel at my daughter’s ability to create a harmless Elf Yourself video on her own, I know full well that it’s just a matter of time before I’m faced with some major concerns regarding her use of mobile technology. At the core of these concerns is the ever evolving world of social media.
Regardless of what apps she will use, many of which don’t even exist today, my emphasis will always be on how she is using them.
Here is an open letter I wrote to my daughter, which contains three critical ideas I’d like her to consider when using social media.
Let me start by saying that I am not writing this as the social media police. I recognize that social media is a critical part of your culture and in many ways keeps you connected to those closest to you. My goal is NOT to stop you from using services like Instagram or Twitter, but rather to empower you to use them effectively.
Each time you share something on any of your social media sites, I want you to consider the following…
#1 – Your posts have a ripple effect.
We’ve talked in the past about the ripple effect and the fact that everything you say or do influences the people around you. Well, social media is no different. Each time you share something, whether it’s a picture, a comment, or a quote, every person it reaches is influenced. So, if you have 1,000 people that are viewing your posts, then you have the potential to influence 1,000 lives in a positive way. Actually, it’s a much larger number than that because when you influence one person, you indirectly influence the people in their network as well. Needless to say, your potential ripple effect with social media is far reaching.
#2 – The number of likes, comments, or re-tweets you receive does NOT equal real happiness.
It’s easy to become a victim of the social media ‘numbers game’. Instead of considering the content of your posts, the urge is to compare your numbers with others and consequently design a plan of attack to reach their status. This often results in you posting comments or pictures simply to gain the recognition of others. Sadly, if your happiness is based on social media numbers, you are in for a long ride on the emotional roller coaster.
Here’s the great news. You CAN find happiness on social media. Neuroscientists (the people who study the brain) have proven that one’s happiness levels are increased greatly when gratitude or acts of kindness are a part of their daily routine. Social media is a perfect platform for doing just that. Instead of posting a random selfie that you took during your fifth period Science class, why not post a picture of a friend and take a moment to express your gratitude for her in a single sentence. This act of gratitude just might influence thousands of people in a positive way.
I know what you are probably thinking, “But, it’s not cool to do these types of things.” To this, I would respond – Is it not cool to be happy? Try it and see what happens.
#3 – Everything you post will forever shape your reputation.
Please keep in mind that your peers are not the only ones who will see the content you post. Believe it or not, when you finish school and eventually apply for a job, your employer will likely look at your social media activity. You can say all of the right things to wow them in an interview, but your social media content over the course of several years will serve as a more consistent portrayal of your values. Fair or not, what you share online will forever be a part of your reputation.
Remember, you have the potential to positively influence more people than you could ever imagine, using social media. Let the ripple-ing being.
With love and encouragement,
NOTE: If you are a parent of a teen, a teacher who works with teens, or know of teens who use social media, PLEASE share my ‘21-day Social Media Challenge’ with them. Watch the video below and share away.