Thursday, 4 July 2019

How Social Media Killed Innocence

I have heard it said, and in most parts it is true, that adults forget what it is like to be young.  That society moves on, technology evolves and teenagers grow more worldly by the hour. It isn't the same as in "your generation".

But while the generations before us have worried about bullying, underage sex, teenage pregnancies, getting drunk in the park and "falling in with the wrong crowd", the obstacles that teenagers face today can be far more dangerous.

I would not want to be a teenager today, particularly a teenage girl, if you paid me.

Image from Pexels

Let's focus for the subject matter of this conversation on 15/16 year old girls.

When I was this age, I was the chubby girl in high school, known for having large breasts.  That was my label.  Cones, the boys called me.  My best friend was naturally very slender and she had her own nickname, which isn't mine to share.

There was bullying, as goes on in every school in one form or another.  In my case, there was also sexual harassment, passed off by teachers as "boys will be boys, they have hormones" and "buy a bigger shirt Kitty".  But that is another story.  

Bullying when I was 15 was limited to school grounds and waiting outside at the bus stop.  It was not being invited to parties and being excluded from conversations.    You were made to be an outsider.  But, the bullying stopped when you entered your home. When you were not in the presence of your bullies, you had some respite.

Mobile phones for the mass market did not come along until around 5/6 years after I left school (this makes me sound 190 years old I realise).   Social media only really started to become popular when Facebook appeared and started to gain significant followers.

I for one am wholly grateful that my teenage years was pre social media.  Because I do not think I would have survived it.  I truly don't.  Because if you are bullied or fall out of favour, it never stops and there is no escape.

There is a clear parallel between the rise and popularity of social media and the rise of teenage depression and suicide.

It is more than just a coincidence that rates of depression in teenagers aged 14-17 has increased by more than 60% according to an American study. 

Unsplash image
These days I am addicted to Twitter, checking the site and messages many times a day, having continued and ever increasing conversations with many people.  There are internet trolls of course and people who can target you on your views, but the block button is your friend and you can remove yourself from conversations which give you stress or cause anxiety.

I regularly have anxiety and the fact that I can sign out, have a break and come back refreshed is something that I do regularly, though not as much as I should.

You do not get to do that as a teenager.  You lead as much of your life online as you do offline.  Probably more.

Telling a teenager to remove themselves from social media when they are being bullied or excluded is ridiculous.  It would take a very, very strong person not to want to know what their fellow pupils are saying about them and talking about them behind their back.

If you removed yourself from the multiple social media sites, many of which I probably haven't even heard of would only cause more bullying.  More worrying about what people are saying about you; and planning.

That is before you even consider what porn has done to teenagers.  With porn accessible with merely a click on the internet, the expectations of boys on teenager girls (not all boys, yes I know) are horrendous.

When I was that age, your first experiences of sex was generally two people who didn't really know what they were doing, but generally having a damn good time experimenting.  The thrill of an hour kissing session.  That look the first time your boyfriend felt/saw your breasts.  The first time of sex.

Now, teenage boys have had years to watch internet porn and their expectations of porn star women are projected on to their female peers.  Hairless vaginas, porn style blow jobs, anal sex.  The presumption that this is the norm.

The expectations on teenage girls to do and perform these acts is massive and peer pressure ways heavily.

While the internet and social media has given us many things, it has also taken away more.  A respite from bullying.  Safe spaces. Normal experimentation and most importantly, innocence.

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