I know you may be surprised to read this, but I did my fair share of stupid things as a teen. Jumping into the bushes face first to make the girl next door laugh, putting WD-40 on skateboard wheels and riding it down a steep hill with no helmet, let a friend slam a fiberglass lunch tray over my head to see if it would break; usual teen stuff.
The only bright side to my sideshow stunts was they were all performed before Facebook and MySpace were relevant and camera phones weren’t a common occurrence, so I couldn’t be immortalized on the viral wall of shame.
This has all changed though. There is now a camera in every pocket and Internet access in every hand. Rash decisions fueled by teen emotions are now seconds away from being broadcast to the world. The generation of upcoming teens are so connected to the Internet and social media that every dumb choice can now be filmed, documented and uploaded before the person can even realize what they just did.
This makes me think, does social media fuel bad decisions in today’s teens? How many questionable decisions have been made chasing imaginary Internet points (likes, retweets, golden doubloons, etc.)? I see it all over the news where teens are filming themselves doing dumb and sometimes dangerous things for the sole reason of putting them on the Internet.
Remember seeing the knockout game all over the news? If you don’t, I can easily explain it. Young teens decided it would be entertaining to walk up to strangers and film themselves trying to hit the person hard enough to knock them out.
After this, they would mock the innocent victim and then upload the video for the whole world to see. Retweets and likes have turned into a sort of social status and some will go to extreme lengths to get them.
Their decision-making isn’t necessarily affected by social media, but I do think it has become a motivation for them to alter behavior. Teens see things happen on Twitter and Vine and instead of living vicariously through others’ poor decisions, they see that person getting a lot of attention so they replicate that behavior hoping they can obtain the same kind of attention.
Any publicity is good publicity right? In this case, wrong.
Craving attention as a teen is just part of growing up and finding yourself. The tragic thing is that this generation is having their cries for attention broadcast to the whole world.
Decisions that are made with little to no forethought turn into mistakes that have lifelong ramifications.
Going “viral” for some teens can be the ultimate accomplishment, but there are some that have their lives ruined by posting things on the Internet and social media. Once you put something on the Internet, you can’t get it back.
It doesn’t help that we have “social media celebrities” that kids think of as role models. We enable people to make a living off of doing everything we tell our kids not to do and then let our kids aspire to be them.
Think about how many conflicting messages that sends them. “Son, don’t film yourself knocking over Wal-Mart displays and put it on Vine. Also, don’t pay attention to that guy who makes a living doing that.”
“Kids will be kids” is the common narrative, but social media has given them an outlet to broadcast poor decisions to the world.
As technology becomes more and more integrated with our society, this will only get worse and we need to make sure and warn teens of the dangers of going “viral.”
We owe them that much.
Column by Zac Garrison, Senior from Franklin, Ky.