Guardians of the social media (CON)

graphic: Evan Pavley

graphic: Evan Pavley

We are the results of the technological boom. Whether it’s making strides in the computer industry, upgrading the Walkman to an Apple iPod, or getting rid of the rabbit ears on the TV, our generation has experienced the greatest changes to our lifestyle. Social media permeates every aspect of our daily activities, often blurring the line between academics and personal life. Accessing Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr at the touch of a button or screen is something our parents’ generation never experienced. So it’s safe to think of ourselves as the experimental generation—one of the first groups of students to grow up with social media as a way of life. However, as with every new experiment, there are the expected worries clouding this scientific process. We are still in the data collection phase, and the ultimate question still remains as to how this technological exposure will affect us in the future.

Amongst the issues and debates surrounding this explosive experiment, the biggest fear of our parents is online safety. To protect us from online predators and irresponsible activities, parents monitor our accounts by adopting an online presence themselves, or practicing the old-fashioned hovering while we access the media. While this may be done in the name of our safety, such actions do more harm than good. Curbing our activities prevents us from reaping the successes of social media’s benefits, and experiencing the world through a different lens.

Social media offers students the opportunity to connect with the world in an entirely different way. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter offer students direct interaction with people from different cultures, places, and backgrounds, rather than through books and news articles. Of course, the dangers of the Internet should not be downplayed—they are very real. Guidelines should be set for exploring the Internet, but these guidelines should not be overbearing and should not limit students’ enthusiasm for exploring new ideas, because these new ideas are fueling today’s world. This creative platform that social media offers should not be destroyed by the fear of intruding parents.

One of the benefits of social media is that it grants students the power to express themselves, experiment with new ideas, and establish original identities. Students can take advantage of social media platforms by test-running different personalities and ideas before claiming a persona of their own; a rehearsal, of sorts, for the real world. If parents monitor these activities, it can prove detrimental to students by making them too self-conscious, and too aware of their social blunders. According to Erica Loop of the GlobalPost, “Internet connections may afford the awkward-feeling-high-schooler the ability to act in a more confident manner.” Learning to comment on Facebook, Tweet status updates, and post pictures on Tumblr translates into the adult world by ingraining students with the knowledge of handling situations appropriately, forming connections with new people, and instilling confidence that helps them move further in life.

As the guardians of the experimental generation, parents often fear the worst when their children start accessing social media. But the online world is not such a scary, un-navigable place. With the proper guidelines and instruction, social media can bolster confidence and instill maturity in students before sending them off to face the adult world. Instead of hovering over shoulders, parents should have the confidence to let their children explore the world, trusting that they will keep themselves safe and ask for help when needed. With every new adventure, there are fears and missteps along the way. If there is a constant fear of failure in online safety and protection, our generation will never grow to embrace all the opportunities that social media platforms provide. We are not perfect, and we will make mistakes. But by learning from our mistakes, we can improve the online experience for following generations.