December 20, 2014

Growing up Social: How to Survive our 20s in the 21st Century.

Growing up Social in 21st C
I look at my phone roughly 110 times per day.

I’m not going to lie, that number is probably higher but we won’t get into that right now. I am constantly checking Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (to name a few). For the most part, these sites have been an advantage for me to share useful information, help with fundraising goals and connect with old friends.

Yes, there are tons of reasons why social media sites are the best.

But what about the reasons why they’re not the best?

Oh boy, not another article about how social media is destroying our generation—but I’m not saying that. I love social media and believe it benefits us in a number of ways we can’t even begin to imagine.

But, I also believe in individuality and what’s that long lost word we don’t hear anymore—privacy.

I’m at the point in my life, sitting at the fork in the road and every decision I make can impact the rest of my life.

No pressure right?

So, when I log into my Facebook and Instagram accounts for the eighth time today (okay more like fifteenth) I am bombarded by photos and status updates of other people’s lives. How they have just graduated with their degree (and are three years younger than me) or how they have gotten engaged or pregnant or both.

A photo of a beach in Bali fills my IPhone screen with hashtags like “#travelyoung” and “#experiencelife” and it gets me really excited for my upcoming Southeast Asia trip.

But, as I keep scrolling through photos the babies and degrees take up more and more space and I begin to second guess my decisions. Should I really be going traveling again? Should I stay here and finish my degree so I can start my career? Should I get married and start having kids now?

I’m not going to be young forever, I really need to get a start on life. These are worries that I face every day. And no, I’m not saying that my parent’s generation never had these worries—I’m just saying they never had their peer’s choices to compare themselves to staring back at them every day.

Deciphering what’s Reality.

I read this great article about a girl who, for her thesis project, told all her family and friends that she was leaving for a life changing trip around Asia. She got her backpack together and her family drove her to the airport and kissed her goodbye. She posted photos of herself on social media enjoying the Asian culture of Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. She skyped with her parents under umbrellas and twinkling lights and stayed in touch via text message.

Little did her family and friends know, she was in her apartment the entire time. She had used photo shop to place herself in photos of Asia and she sent all her text messages in the middle of the night to add to her credibility. Her goal was to prove how easy it is to distort reality and to show people how we filter and manipulate the things we post to social media.

Reading this was such an eye opening experience for me. We have the ability to trick every single person in our lives into believing we are in a different country simply by what we post online.

It’s scary to think that this is how disconnected we have become to each other and more importantly, to reality. I mean it’s not our faults really, with all the improvements to photo shopping programs and the information and photos that are available to us with just the click of a button. Anyone could post a picture from the internet and trick people into thinking it’s their own.

But it’s when we let these pictures of our peers consume us and our own decisions is where the problems really lie.

Just because someone on our news feed just packed up their life and moved across the country, does that suddenly mean that we, still living at home and going to our local university, are doing it wrong? This person is “#chasingdreams” and we’re still doing the same thing we did in high school. We have gotten it into our minds that in order to grow as individuals we must do what society tells us to do—travel young, go to school, get married, and have babies.

And if we don’t complete this in the right order we are somehow behind in life.  

We see the photos every day of things like mini bottles of liquor taken at such an angle that they look actual size, followed by a photo of the reality. This is done in order to show us that we can’t believe everything we see online.

This is great advice and everybody can agree with it, but does that stop us from comparing our lives to others and somehow thinking they must be better? Probably not. It’s like telling someone that eating junk food late at night isn’t good for them but knowing they’re going to do it anyway.

Because come on, there’s nothing better than nachos at midnight.

Staying True to Oneself.

The hardest part about growing up in the online generation is remembering to do things for ourselves.

We live in a world where everything we do has a purpose. We take our phones in the gym just so everyone knows how much we’re sweating and we wait an extra thirty seconds to eat our food just so we can snap the perfect photo with the perfect hashtag.

Our priorities are more focused on how many likes we get and we forget that there’s still a life out there to be lived.

So next time we could ask the question: “Am I doing this for myself or for my followers?”

Because we’re the ones who have to stick around for it. There’s no swiping through life and we can’t put a filter on bad decisions. We need to stay true to what better fits our own path and not just the one that looks better on our wall.

So here I am again, faced with that big decision.

Is traveling really what I should be doing right now? Well, besides the fact that I already booked a non-refundable flight (I’m living on a student budget, okay?)

I’m going for a reason. And no, not to find myself or anything like that.

I’ve been traveling enough to realize that a person doesn’t need to leave the country in order to find themselves. Besides, the hardest part about finding yourself abroad is learning how to adapt that person you found back into the life that awaits you back home.

The real reason I am going traveling is not some wild revelation or soul searching journey (if I happen to find some soul along the way that’d be great too) but it’s because I want to. I want some adventure outside of the classroom and I happened to find a deal on flights.

So, I’m not graduating or getting married and there will be no children in my life for at least five years. And that’s okay with me.


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Author: Sydney Towers

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: courtesy of the author

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