Despite not living next to each other, we are still very much in sync, because I couldn’t agree more about Twitter and actually the blog I wrote over the course of last week, follows on with a very similar topic.
So last weekend was my five-year school reunion. We left school five years ago. FIVE. I’m not sure how this much time has passed, whilst at the same time, the feelingof returning to school felt daunting.
Like most people, I’m sure, I had goals or ideas about where I would be when I attended the event at 23 – an age that at 18 felt mature and adult. I looked at 23 year olds and thought how grown up they were. They had their lives sorted, they were successful, happy and ticking all the boxes society tells us we should have done by the time we’re 23 (degree, job, boyfriend, your own flat, the list goes on). Boxes, that are all the more painfully obvious we haven’t met because of social media. I couldn’t feel further from a grown up – perhaps because I’m still calling adults ‘grown-ups’, when real ones of course, don’t call themselves a ‘grown-up’.
My point is, is that when I thought of the concept of being 23 it was of someone who was ‘sorted’ and ‘together’ and a lot of the time, I feel like I am neither. The worst part about growing up in our world today is that you can’t escape what looks like evidence to prove that you are the only one feeling this inadequacy. On social media, my peers seem to be far closer to the idea of what I thought 23 would be than I am.
Nowadays, there are more ways for us to connect to people, to communicate, to share – there are many positives. But there are also far too many opportunities for us to compare ourselves to others and in doing so feel worse about ourselves. The constant inescapable presence of others happiness, or a Lo-Fi filtered, brightened, colour tinted, staged happiness in our faces when we don’t feel the same, is doing nothing for people’s mental health.Seeing people in real life as opposed to the happy, together and sorted version I saw on social media, was a wake-up call. A wake-up call to how inaccurate of a picture it can produce. People were talking about how unhappy they were, their arguments with friends or the jobs they hated when it would have been impossible to gauge any of this from their social media presence. Obviously I have always known the potentially misleading culture of the online world – it’s like a unicorn, you know it’s not real but you can’t help thinking how pretty or magical it looks and wishing that you could own one. If at 23, and pretty secure in myself, I can still be influenced by these misleading portrayals of people, what hope is there for young adults today?
Talking to old teachers, they told me about the suicide attempts and self-harming that is more commonplace in education now than there ever was even when we were at school five years ago. Of which, they largely accounted it to social media. If true, it’s a frightening reality.I worry that the technology we are so proud of, is also hurting us, and hurting a younger generation the most.We are not only, or solely, happy and I doubt many people feel ‘sorted’ or ‘together’ at any age. Not one of us is perfect, and we have made it harder for people to see this, to separate illusion from reality.
Nowadays we live in two worlds, but for teenagers it’s harder. They live in limbo between these worlds, perhaps at the cost of never being themselves, feeling complete, or figuring out who they are, in either. It’s something that weighs, and has been weighing, on my mind more so than ever. All because of a school reunion.
Love T xx