In Felicity Duncan’s article Why Many Kids are Leaving Social Networks she claims that young people today are switching from broadcast social media like Facebook to narrow-cast social media such as Snapchat. Amanda Lenhart’s article Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015 conflicts with Duncan’s data, showing that in fact, Facebook is the most popular social media network among teens (71% use Facebook while 41% use Snapchat). Lenhart’s article was written only a few weeks ago on February 4, 2016, while Duncan’s article was written nearly a year ago. It could very well be that social media use has changed that much in a very short time.
In any case, let’s consider what they are saying about young people, their use of social media and how it affects our ever-changing connected world.
Duncan expressed that there have been “alarms sounding” because teens are leaving Facebook. My question is “So what?!” Who am I concerned for here? Marc Zuckerberg? Advertising agencies? CEOs of major brands? I don’t think so. I think they will be just fine. Am I concerned for young people today because they are leaving Facebook? No. Let me explain.
It seems to me that social media will continue to be an ever-changing landscape, at least in our lifetime. Advertisers will evolve and find new ways to advertise each time there is a new popular platform. Mark Zuckerberg and other CEOs will continue to retire with pockets full of money. I’m pretty sure they will be okay.
So what about young people today? Are they becoming more narcissistic? And if so, could it be due to social media use and too many selfies? I did some research online to learn more. Dr. Peter Gray concluded that there is in fact, a rise in narcissism. However, he attributes this increase to a decline of children’s free social play. Read more about this interesting topic at Dr. Gray’s blog. Dr. Lisa Firestone found that narcissism is on the rise but is due to changes in parenting styles and not to social networks.
Lynne Malcolm also found that the rise in narcissism is due to a change in parenting style.
Finally, Brooke Lea Foster takes issue with much of the research out there and states that every generation of young people is more narcissistic than its elders.
I strongly agree with Brooke Lea Foster. I believe that human beings are, generally, more self involved when we are young and become more empathetic and service-focused with age. There have always been self-involved people. There has always been cruelty. These are not new concepts. At the same time there has always been kindness, love and generosity. These are not new ideas either. Parents can pass down cruel ways or kind ways. And young people can choose to be kind even when they have been mistreated or oppressed. People make choices. It has always been and will always be. I choose to have hope and be optimistic. I choose to believe in the goodness of young people and that through our interactions as educators we can encourage all young people to make healthy choices that have a positive impact on the world around them.
I remember when I was in grade seven my teacher read our class a letter written to a newspaper editor. The writer of the letter complained about young people these days and how they have no respect and are completely self-involved. The letter was written in the 1800s. I appreciated my teacher sharing this with us and, obviously it has stuck with me. I tried to find this letter to the editor. I don’t think I found the same source. However there are many like it out there, such as this collection at Mentalfloss and this one at Proto-knowledge. I find these quite humorous as well as poignant.
As for Facebook, perhaps it will fade out in time. Or perhaps young people will grow into it and increase their use of it as they get married, stop partying, have children and want to connect in a different way. I will miss Facebook if it disappears one day. However, I will adapt and connect on whatever new platform is available at that time
Already I have begun to use Snapchat. Previously, my husband and I had not allowed our twelve year old daughter to be on Snapchat. After this week’s reading I allowed her to get a Snapchat account. I got one along with her to see if I could keep up with the times. (I don’t think I can by the way! I can barely keep up with my current accounts! But I will give it a try!) I have also started following The Insatiable Traveler who is also a grown woman attempting to use Snapchat. I will also be closely following Sarah Wandy’s journey on Snapchat.
Felicity Duncan also raised a possible concern that with young people moving to narrower platform their views may become more partisan. I take issue with this concern as I wonder what could possibly be more partisan than television over the past seventy years? Really?
Most of what we see on television are forty year old white, rich men and the sexy women and products that are meant to satisfy them! Partisan views are certainly not a new problem. (Sorry forty-something, white men. I do not mean to offend or generalize. I realize there are an abundance of wonderful, kind forty-something white men out there. In fact I am married to one. However,you just have to Google white privilege to get the research to support the claim that forty year old white men are far over-represented and generally, the most privileged group around. It just is what it is.) Regardless, young people who are connected to positive role models can still manage to learn about other ways of thinking and being.
I do believe that technology is changing the way we interact and think. You can read more about this at Mashable, The Age or Psychology Today. As educators, I believe this is what we need to focus on. I am fascinated by brain research. Truly, that is our business; understanding how the brain works and helping young people use it to the best of their ability to do good things in the world; a world that is connected through technology. Thanks to Vanessa Braun for sharing this diagram. This is basically what teaching using technology is all about.
We can have an impact on young people. We can use their interests, including Snapchat, Minecraft and other forms of social media, to pique their curiosity, get them creating and solving problems and help them become positive citizens who can make a difference in the world. We do not need to worry about the future of our world being in their hands (yes they can hold their devices and hold the world up too!). We just need to give them tools to learn and some loving guidance as they go!