Momservation: An Instagram picture can be deleted. Remembering when that cute boy said “Yes” to dancing with you every time you hear Justin Beiber is forever.
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Social media has cannibalized the most fun ways for teens to be social.
Exhibit A: Yearbook signings.
High schoolers aren’t interested in getting their yearbooks signed anymore! And why should they? The end of the school year tradition where kids used a yearbook as an excuse to see what friends and that cute guy/girl in 5th period really thought of them (or get a prized phone number with a K.I.T – Keep in Touch!) have become obsolete.
Kids can get constant, instant validation and interaction anytime by posting a pic on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and watch the comments pour in: Beautiful! You’re so cute! You’re such a bae! ILY! You’re such a hottie! OMG so hot!
Who needs to actually interact with someone to ask for a yearbook signature when you can just figure out their screen name and troll them on Twitter? Or request to follow them on Instagram without that awkward face to face encounter? Then you can stalk them and have access to way more photos of that cute boy than a yearbook can offer! Or see where they are at that very minute with a Facebook check-in! Or feel like better friends than you are because you always Like each other’s pictures! Or never risk rejection because you can do everything from the safety of your phone!
Which brings us back to those coveted yearbook phone numbers…now as casually thrown out as pennies on the ground. But not for calling each other—for texting. I mean, how are kids supposed to communicate with each other if they can’t text? Which leads me to…
Exhibit B: Phone Calls.
Teens don’t talk on the phone to each other anymore. “It’s weird,” says my 15 year-old daughter. “What for?” says my 16 year-old son. Because why call when you can text?
It’s another social development that has been stifled by the superficial connections of social media.
Like getting the courage up to ask for a yearbook signature, making a phone call to create a social connection with someone you liked was how kids grew outside their comfort zone socially.
Now kids don’t have to worry about racing to the phone before their parents answer. They don’t have to hide under the covers trying to muffle the sound of a late night phone call stretching into the night. Or have to suffer the awkward leaving of message with a nosey parent or forgetful sibling.
Texting may be less risky and awkward, but it also has way more room for miscommunication and misinterpretation when people don’t respond right away, or tone is unclear, or it’s just too much work to type out an answer that would give someone more context (NM – never mind). Plus, a heart eyes emoticon just can’t replace the sound of someone telling you how wonderful they think you are and an LOL just can replace the joy of hearing someone special laugh at your joke.
And when kids do make a phone call—it’s a Facetime phone call where they can see each other. And your double chins, and your messy room, and your zit cream on your face, and your little brother thinking he’s funny behind you, and your mom telling you to quit leaving panty liners all over the place. Yeah, sometimes a little mystery is good.
Which leads us to the mystery of why kids don’t rush out to get their…
Exhibit C: Driver’s License
Getting your driver’s license was your ticket to freedom. Teens timed their driver’s training so the second they turned 16 they could get their license, borrow Mom’s car, and go grab friends for any adventure that didn’t include a parent picking you up or dropping you off.
A license swung the social door wide open because you could be in charge of your own destiny (if you had access to a car and gas money). You could physically take yourself to where other teenagers were hanging out.
Now kids are like: who needs a car to do that? They feel connected to other teens through all their social media apps. Why drive to Loehman’s to see if anyone is hanging out there when you can see on SnapChat stories and Facebook check-ins that they are? Why drive to the mall to hang out together when you can just keep SnapChatting selfies back and forth to each other? Who needs a car full of friends when you have nearly 1,000 Instagram and Twitter Followers?
True, new laws prohibit kids from driving with other teens in the car for the first year as well as driving restrictions past 11 p.m. And cars, insurance, and gas are expensive. But settling for connections through a phone just can’t replace the thrill of getting behind the wheel and driving down the road of possibilities.
Like say maybe to…
Exhibit D: High School Dances
Like yearbook signings, dances were a way for teens to connect beyond their normal friend group. It gave you an excuse to walk up to that cute girl or guy and interact with them with a “Hey, you want to dance” or “Hey, will you sign my yearbook?” Sure, you could be rejected but more often than not it was rude to say “No” so there was a built in safety net to take the leap.
Kids don’t leap anymore. They’d rather play it safe with their followers and “friends” on Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, Facebook, or Phhhoto—feeling popular with superficial connections. They’d rather get cheap thrills by Liking a cute boy’s photo they’ve never even talked to then the real rush of floating on air as you dance to Justin Beiber’s “Sorry” with that cute boy from Chem class, surrounded by friends and classmates, creating a lasting memory that will surge up for decades every time you hear that song.
It still shocks me when teens forgo this opportunity to bond with their classmates in the most memorable way possible—through the music of their times, celebrating youth by dancing and singing with friends and classmates who will all go their separate ways in four years—because “Dances are lame” or “Nobody goes anymore.”
If you ask me, sitting alone in your room posting selfies to see how many Likes you get is lame. And if nobody goes to dances anymore, then what are they doing besides laying the groundwork to look back and realize they have no tangible, memorable social experiences from high school because they mistook 450 Likes on an Instagram photo as really living.