I've been doing extensive research on the effects of social media on the teen culture. Remember, this is the first generation growing up in a world where Social Media and Web 2.0 is a reality. They don't know life without Facebook, YouTube, Google, or Twitter. Their whole lives have been connected through a series of messages, videos, and 140 character tweets.
So the question at hand is, Does social media actually do its perceived job of connecting people?
And there's no question in my mind. The answer is ABSOLUTELY YES!
We've been able to connect with people we haven't seen in years. Old classmates, new friends, and people with similar interests are connected like never before. We can message people, inform dates and calendar events, talk about the latest homework assignments, or just talk about what's going on in our world...ALL FROM THE TOUCH OF OUR CELL PHONES.
It's an unbelievable mobile world we live in, but what of connecting? Really connecting?
I was recently at a youth event and I asked the students "Who in this group post pictures of themselves in their most depressed time?"
Let it be known...NO HANDS WENT UP.
"So when you're cruising facebook looking at everyone else's pictures, do you ever picture the people you're creeping on having a bad day?"
One student realized where I was going and responded, "No, it just seems like everyone else is having more fun than I am."
"Exactly!" I was so excited someone was actually tracking with me.
"You see, what happens in our illusion of connection is a euphoric ideal that the world is 'better' out there. Everyone else has life figured out. They're eating good foods. They're going on exotic vacations. They're hanging out with popular friends and celebrities. But in reality, they experience the same life you do.
Put a different way....
When you're creeping on the Facebook pictures of someone else thinking to yourself, 'Man, their life is awesome, and I'm so depressed.' They are actually doing the same thing to your photos on their end. They're cruising through all your highlight pictures and thinking, 'Man, their life is awesome, and I'm so depressed.' (obviously depression is overstated for the analogy) But the point remains the same. We all think everyone else has life figured out while we're struggling."
The truth is, WE ALL HAVE ISSUES. We all struggle through pain, heartache, disease, death, depression, rejection, the need for validation, and the ever wondering 'Am I good enough?'
Nobody lives the life we see in People Magazine, not even the people who are in People.
Nobody is safe from pain.
Nobody is immune to the feeling of inadequacy.
It's a natural drive for us to go out and prove who we are and that we matter.
So in as far as Social Mediums connect us, it's unbelievable. But to think Facbook, Twitter, or Youtube can replace real human interaction is to deceive ourselves. We are whole people who need the support of a community. We need people to rejoice in our success. We need people to mourn in our loss. We need to have those few people we can be honest with about all the hidden dark shadows that run around in our minds. After all, we're born that way.
In the beginning of time, I believe God created us all to live in culture together. Sure, He knew Facebook would be around, but He created us to dwell with one another. Not just 'click' for friendships, but actually work at serving one another. Maybe a better way to state it is, "Love Your Neighbor!"
Interestingly enough, all the major religions on the planet find commonality in the fact we should learn to Love those around us. And Love, in its purest form, is to serve each other. When we dwell in a community of people, and look out for the best interests of others HIGHER than those of our own; we find TRUE community.
That's why I get so excited about our little slice of heaven in Colorado called KIVU. We're not simply putting on a summer retreat/resort center for teenagers. We're putting together a community of people who learn how to interact at a human level.
No cell phones.
No Social Mediums.
We're interested in Teenagers having the time of their life, and learning that we are more about understanding how to live with one another, than turning to a safe place of connection on the web.
Come check out our progress at www.campkivu.com.
I'm interested in your thoughts.
Do you think Social Media is making us more lonely?