Confession Time and why Teenagers should not use Facebook

This post is written for my former students at VCS. It is written for the sole purpose of speaking to them, from my heart. It is not a blanket statement, nor is it meant to judge anyone else’s students or children. Also, I should say, there are exactly two notable exceptions to this post, and those two students make me prouder than I could ever imagine. 

A funny little trend keeps popping up on my News Feed on Facebook. It is something I only see coming from the teenagers I used to teach. They’ll post a list of questions about themselves, and then say something like, “5 likes for confessions” or something. The list of questions is a really ridiculous list, things that only other self-absorbed teenagers would really care about, and are only meant as gossip fodder. For example:

  1. Am I single?
  2. Am I crushing? (Dad, this question means, “Do I have a crush on someone?”)
  3. Who?
  4. What’s my favorite color?
  5. What food did I eat for breakfast today?
  6. Who is my best friend?
  7. What am I going to do this weekend?
  8. Who am I mad at right now?
  9. What’s my favorite song?
  10. What am I scared of?

I remember when I was their age, and email was the hippest form of communication outside of passing notes in class. (Yeah, teenagers, we all passed notes and thought the teachers had no clue. Guess what- teachers know. And guess what else- for the most part, teachers don’t really care. <gasp!>) Back in the good ol’ days of emailing and possibly even IM-ing (thanks, AOL, lol), we used to send around “surveys” that were quite similar to your little Facebook confessionals. But there was one key difference. Our surveys were not a popularity contest/useless fact combo- they were purely for entertainment and sent only to those friends who we knew would read them and respond. We never requested that someone first do something for us before we revealed “deep” secrets about ourselves and our personal lives.

I get so frustrated when I see all of you, my former students, requesting your friends’ “likes” on these little “confessionals.” On one hand, I understand it perfectly: you think you’re all that, and that everyone else wants to know every little detail about your life because you are, in fact, the center of the universe. So it is reasonable to follow through on that  logic and assume that since you’re obviously so mysterious and wonderful, you can use that to your advantage and gather popularity votes, a.k.a. “likes”, just to ensure that you are, in fact, as cool as you thought you were. On the other hand, I wish you were reading your own posts, comments, and status updates with your 25-year-old brain. I bet your older, less self-obsessed self would have a thing or two to say.

Unfortunately, and this is my biggest concern for many of you, your 25-year-old self will not be any less self-obsessed. Facebook, Twitter, and the world of social media has forced you into a world fueled by selfishness like no one has ever seen. You get up in the morning, and the first thing you do is log in to the virtual world, where all of your “friends” are ready to greet you. You send out a random complaint, just hoping that someone will wake up early enough to log in and notice that you were the first person to make a statement today. Then, when you get to school, it’s an all-out battle for attention. Girls calling each other names, spreading rumors behind each other’s backs, being cruel to other girls…just because you can. Guys treating girls with disrespect, putting each other down through “funny” one-liners, doing the least amount of work required to just barely pass…just because you can. You even take time during your breaks (and during class, don’t think I don’t see your status updates all day long) to post rude, critical, crass, and disagreeable things on your social media outlets! And then when you get home, it’s an all-out frenzy to discuss the day’s events, rehashing all the gossip and drama, calling each other out (yet again) in a public forum, and generally hurting each other’s feelings. And all of this done on the stage of Middle School (which will become the even bigger stage of High School in just a few months or years). See, you’re just being set up to live in a way that is totally self-absorbed (I mean, really, as if the rest of the world cares what you had for breakfast?!?!) and will eventually create and fuel some of the biggest rumors, gossip, and drama the world has ever seen.

And the bullying! You are bullies! Students of mine, I have seen your status updates and comments. And let me tell you, I have been absolutely appalled at some of the things you are writing to and about each other. I know you all personally, and when my sweet girls start posting racist slurs about other sweet girls of mine, it makes me very sad. When the guys I knew before their voices changed suddenly start referring to girls using offensive names, it makes me feel like we, as adults in your lives, are really messing up somehow and setting a terrible example for you.

But the thing that makes me feel the worst is when I read posts from some of you who have been hurt by this self-absorption and cruelty that is displayed by the vast majority of my former students. A girl comes home from school and posts things about other students being mean to her at recess. A guy comes home and writes about his new board, only to have others belittle him and mock him in the comments section.

Students, this is not you. This is not who you are. And this is not who you were meant to be. When you turn 25, I want you to be able to look back on yourself and realize, “Wow, I was really self-centered back then. I am so glad I was able to see that and move on.” See, you all have the capability of changing this world. Each and every one of you has unique talents and gifts that no other person has. Many of you were gifted academically. Others musically. Some artistically. Most of you have a talent for humor, unique to you, and definitely the highlight of my years spent with you.

Students, I absolutely loved spending time with you back then. But I’m not really fond of you now. That’s not to say that I would not be there for you, 100%, no matter what. Because you know I would. I am always here for you. The thing is, I kind of expected you to be there for each other. And you’re not really living up to my expectations. Why not, guys? What’s the deal?

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4 Comments

  1. courteney said,

    February 6, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Sadly the bullying starts before middle school. My sister and I were bullied in elementary school a lot. She got it worse than me. This year I have had to deal with a “I hate Gavin” club (and book)
    in his class! It just broke our hearts! Why are kids so mean?? Only one parent made thier child appologise to him. I say shame on the rest of the parents!

    • February 6, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      Courteney, I wish I knew these students’ parents well enough still to discuss my concerns directly with them. However, my students are at an age now where they’re learning to take responsibility for their own actions and words, and I feel they’re learning from terrible examples that they set for each other. Instead of getting a break from the gossip and hurtfulness at school, they only go home to continue it long into the evening hours and the weekends. There is no safety anymore for the bullied ones. And there does not seem to be any way to stop the ones who are doing the hurting. It breaks my heart.

      And I am so sorry to hear about Gavin’s class. Good for you for taking a stand for him. He still needs you guys to be strong examples of how to behave. Imagine if he’d learned from you that it was okay to just do it back.

  2. Kristy said,

    February 8, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Thanks for writing this. I think a lot of this stuff happens because everyone is doing it and it seems normal. It also seems like people will get left behind if they don’t participate. Somewhere between 1) the people who complain that they don’t do Facebook and wish people would send pictures and letters or make phone calls like they used to do and 2) the people who request that everyone “like” everything (or at least be subjected to it on a daily basis), including self-absorbed and even obscene stuff, there has got to be 3) a middle ground that is polite and communicative. Actually, I have sympathy for group #1. 🙂 I have done my share of online behaviors that I look back at and think, that’s plain boring and rude. I did them without thinking because “everyone else was” so it seemed normal and appropriate. But it wasn’t!

    • February 8, 2012 at 2:27 pm

      I agree that most of what is posted on facebook (by me!) is quite boring as well. It is very much a self-centered thing. But it really is a nice easy way to communicate with a large number of friends and family members at one time. Unfortunately most of what I see from teenagers, who really have nothing of importance, is just gossip, rude words, and (as my MIL puts it) navel-gazing. I wouldn’t mind the self-obsessed posts nearly as much… but when they turn mean and slanderous, it really boils my blood. These are my KIDS. I’ve poured YEARS of myself into their lives, and it’s so difficult to see them hurt each other on purpose like they do. I just hope some of them got the wake-up call. :/


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