The Smartest 16 year old we know

Being a teenager, I often feel a bit like a guinea pig. One of millions enduring a mandatory science experiment, concocted in a lab of white cloaked men and women. If this was a science lesson, I would be expected to identify the ‘aim’ of this investigation, and I feel it would be something like this: to investigate the effects of social media of the human mind.


The old age question seems to be: do the media, the celebrity image and the models affect the self image of vulnerable, easily influenced teenagers? Well, the answer is not really. At sixteen years old, it is not those glossy images that make me rethink my appearance (since everyone became aware of the existence of Photoshop) but the images directed straight onto my phone screen by people much closer to home. The constant bombardment of the perfect ‘selfie’ is enough to make anyone feel rather inadequate. I admit, seeing all the white toothed, perfectly pouted, eyebrow plucked – to within an inch of their lives – images of people I ‘know’ (notice the quotation marks, since to ‘know’ someone in social media terms for my age group can constitute as loose a connection as a friend of a friend’s friend) it does somewhat instil a sense of disaffection when looking in the mirror. I do not myself face a real crisis of self image, but the art of comparison is one that I seem to have mastered: comparing my own appearance to others, comparing others to others. This trait has inevitably translated into having a slightly more judgemental view of myself and other people, as reluctant as I am to admit that. If this is a reflection of all my contemporaries, surely our generation and all those that follow will have more critical perceptions of other people?

The very nature of ‘social media’ should be to be sociable whilst using it; obviously, sitting behind a screen on your own is anything but. Sometimes I find myself using my facebook account to feel connected to others, when the apparently alien concept of spending time with a person escapes my consideration. What is more, I often find that a majority of the ‘friends’ I have on facebook and those I ‘follow’ are people I am neither interested in or particularly like, yet I spend a lot of time finding out about their ‘outfit of the day’ or what ‘throwback’ they are reminiscing about each Thursday. When I consider how all those hours trawling through newsfeeds of this nature could have been spent talking to a real human being, it does make me a little ashamed. If anything, social media has made me lonelier than I was before, as I have found it is easy to forget that typing is different to talking, and ‘liking’ is poles apart to connecting with someone in the way our forefathers used to do: face to face.

It is easy to recognise the negatives of it all, but without action – taking a stand to go cold turkey and delete the apps from your phone – all this discussion is relatively pointless. I know that once I have finished typing this up, I’ll reach for my phone and loose myself in the online lives of others until I’m satisfied. I suppose it’s like an addiction: the habit you can’t kick. It’s my reliance on the stuff that worries me: it’s almost like without it, you are not in the loop, not involved, not included, and if you’re constantly removed from this bubble of likes, comments and post: you’re invisible.

Of course, young people are not the only ones subjected to the ugly side effects of ‘liking’ and ‘posting’, older generations arguably experience these psychological effects with as much poignancy as teenagers do. But as we have grown up with this technology, in a way no other generation can claim to, we have evolved and developed our characters with social media in mind. We adapt to our surroundings, and if our surroundings feed us with the fuel to criticise the appearance and lives of others, as well as encouraging us to be absorbed in the virtual world in sacrifice of reality, I don’t imagine this adaption to be in aid of making us better people, rather a lonely bunch of bitter narcissists.

Sitting back at the desk in period 5 Biology, I would probably then be encouraged to make a prediction as to the outcome of this experiment. It is hard to do this without assessing the long term effects on our generation, and obviously these have not surfaced yet. However, I have a strong feeling that when the results of the experiment are recorded and analysed, an unattractive reality will be uncovered.