Old issues, New media

How has the internet and social media made it even more difficult to be a modern man. These issues are well explored by Phil Zimbardo in his book Man(disconnected) and in his TED talk.

Technology has raised new challenges but before we address them it is crucial to recognise most of the basic issues are not new. Understanding this will help you and your parents work out what really matters. Teenagers seek identity and they seek this away from the family, since otherwise they can’t be sure it is their identity, rather than someone else’s. Ideally this process is rapid and they find their niche back at home secure in knowing what role they play now they are older. A generation ago this was done by standing in groups in shopping centres, on street corners, at events and talking endlessly on the phone. Now it is done on social media – and here lie the big challenges.

Few parents worried about their child being addicted to the phone if they used it all evening, although they might have been annoyed at the bill or not being able to use it themselves. A similar amount of time spent on social media, because it seems less visible, will raise issues of addiction, danger and bullying.

And yet what should we be worrying about? There are three new challenges as teenagers navigate this age old rite of passage of finding themselves within their peer group. The first is social media is more persistent. The comment on the phone disappears in the air – the comment on Facebook remains. The phone conversation was to a well defined audience. Social media is not, however careful your settings might be. Passing thoughts and comments are very visible, easy to pass on and even easy to search for.

So let’s not worry about time on social media – that is just the same as time on the phone or standing at the street corner. But let’s talk about the new and difficult challenges of varied audiences and the visibility and permanence of what by definition is a passing phase in life.