Aside from the many business benefits that social media affords, what’s just as impactful is the influence social media and entertainment has on our youth and young adults. Our youth should be poised to be the future leaders of our society. But what values are they learning?
I have interviewed several parents who report that their kids are turning into unrecognizable individuals. They report that their kids have an inflated sense of who they are. Because they receive so many likes on Facebook, they feel important and famous, and too advanced to listen to their parents’ outdated ideas. I know of some teens and young adults who use social media to connect to commit and celebrate crime, fighting, and end up incarcerated at a young age.
Unfortunately, these teens and youths do not have the life experience to realize that a very small number of them will become successful on YouTube. Some do not realize there is a real difference between digital presence and reality. In the real world, people are confronted with lack of job opportunities and financial challenges. This digital environment is often fraught with emotional emptiness, make-believe, and danger. My work-study has observed that, “Social media makes relationships and growing up harder, and is a breeding ground for distrust, paranoia, and is a set up for depression.”
A small sliver of hope in all this is a vice dean who keeps a tight reign over the content Jamie, her twelve year-old son, consumes. Her son has access to YouTube but no cell phone, Facebook, or Snapchat. She also noted that YouTube is the new television. At his age she reports that he is more influenced by his parents. His cousins, however, who are 14 and 17, and own cell phones, feel that Jamie is lucky. They tell him they feel stressed out trying to keep up with it all.
We’re all taught that it is good for your brand to present your best self and to share and to claim our own personal fame. On television, everyone is sharing their personal lives on reality shows, which, may or may not be real. On the contrary, I shrink back from revealing any information about deeply personal content, like family members, relationships, political orientation, etc. Consequences can be costly depending on who views your page. It can lead to home invasions, biases, and personal exploitation. I still feel somewhat insecure knowing that no matter how I control my privacy settings, Facebook or someone still owns the information and can recycle it anytime. I don’t necessarily want to see posts from 2 or 3 years ago come up again with the request to reshare. I feel my only protection is to keep my page and brand bland—not exactly a prescription for success by today’s digital standards.
I hope that the people who know how to distinguish between virtual and reality and use discretion will outweigh Facebook and Instagram predators. It may be the only hope we have in society’s digital platform.