My wife is so smart.
A few weeks I wrote a post about how young people are currently using social media linking to an article written by a 19 year-old about how he and his friends use social media. The point of my email was to communicate how quickly people are shifting from one social media platform to another and if we hope to influence young leaders, we need to connect communicate where they are. They’re not using facebook and only some of them are on twitter. It’s an interesting topic to consider.
A few hours after my post published, my wife Sara called me and told me that I missed the point of the article.
This is what I love about my wife. She makes me better and she doesn’t just tell me what I want to hear. She encouraged me to read the article again because there was a different message there entirely. She was right, I missed it and there’s some really good stuff there.
So, I encourage you to read this article if you haven’t already. Your 4th and 5th grade students will be here in just a few years. The SIGNIFICANT number of teenagers who serve in our ministries are here right now. How they are using social media tells us a lot about who they are, how they think and what they struggle with.
The author of this article talks a lot about frustration with the public nature of social media.
Facebook: Facebook doesn’t allow much privacy. Friends tag each other in photos and teenagers feel the need to analyze every photo to make sure they want to be tagged in the photo. Twitter isn’t much better. It’s a place where a bunch of random strangers can follow you, but they’re all connected to your personal profile.
Instagram: Instagram is appealing because if offers more privacy. The older generations aren’t on it like they are on facebook, so that’s a good thing. You can like a photo and leave a comment and not worry about someone seeing what you liked or commented on because it’s much harder to find. Privacy seems much more important now. The other really interesting thing about instagram is how it offers the opportunity to edit. The complaint about facebook is that people just put anything up there, but instagram builds in the opportunity to edit and filter photos before you post them. The author says, “If I don’t get any likes on my Instagram photo or Facebook post within 15 minutes you can sure bet I’ll delete it.” There seems to be a strong drive for approval through likes and comments.
Snapchat: Snapchat is one of the fastest growing social media platform for teens because it removes to social pressure they feel from the others. It’s not just about the sexting. You don’t have to worry about comments and likes because in a matter of seconds after the photo is viewed, it’s gone. No pressure. No worries. Teens can just be themselves, say what they want to say, share those awkward photos without worrying where it’s going to show up again.
Tumblr: Tumblr is the interesting one. The author describes it as a place where you can be followed by a bunch of random people and it isn’t tied to your public profile. It’s a place where you can truly be yourself and be completely anonymous. If someone you know finds you, you can change your URL and hide once again.
What this says about teenagers
Reading between the lines, I see insecurity and a strong desire to be accepted without judgement. Students are going to be all over social media because it’s a place where they can connect with people and interact with friends, but it’s loaded with social pressure. They’re concerned about what people might think about that post or if their parents will see that picture. They’re constantly editing their image to present how they want others to see them and many will resist truly being themselves unless they can find a place where they can be completely anonymous.
I’m not offering any suggestions here, just presenting the information. In our ministries, we’re promoting kids into this world and involving large numbers of teenagers from this world to lead kids. Understanding what their social media habits are might help us better lead them. How can we provide generous approval that they’re desperately seeking? How can we provide environments where they can truly be themselves in a judgement-free zone? How can we help them find the freedom to live life without the need to edit every part of it in concern of what it says about them?
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