And yet, with every passing hour, I become more and more convinced they have a far better handle on the world than current 40(ish) somethings.
There’s the obvious evidence in current events, with survivors from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school calling bullshit on the NRA and standing strong in the face of threats from deplorables.
Based on my life this week, though, my reasoning for placing so much faith in today’s adolescents is they have, for the most part, collectively given a huge middle finger to Facebook. My 15 year old has an account, but he only signed up for it because of some game he wanted to play, and my 13 year old has never expressed any interest.
Of course, they spend too much time on snapchat, which I don’t really get because I haven’t put the effort into getting it; and I’m old. And, I know snapchat has its own issues and I probably need to do a better job of informing myself as to what those issues are.
But, my teenagers, even being all hormonal and stinky and angsty and teenager-y, seem to have far fewer interpersonal struggles and angst than my fellow middle aged Facebook users. There are no algorithms determining what shows up in the newsfeed of their lives, placing them in a bubble of only like-minded individuals. They don’t limit their interactions with their peers to Facebook- they actually see and talk to their friends on regular bases. When my son has political or ideological differences with his friends, they hash them out verbally instead of virtually. It happened just last week. We were on spring break with another family. The two 15 year old boys stumbled into a disagreement about immigration and deportation. Jerod, who has inherited my tendency to feel things WAY too strongly (fuck you, nature AND nurture) got pretty upset. I’m certain no consensus was reached between these two kids, but Jerod and I took a little time out from the rest of the crew on the ferry ride back to our rented house, we got home, everybody went to bed, and the following day everyone woke up and got back to the business at hand: vacationing.
There was no ongoing back and forth in a comment thread. There was no name calling. There was no ‘unfriend’ button to be pushed in the heat of the moment. At one point the dads became involved and my understanding is they also had some disagreements. I say ‘my understanding,’ because I handled conflict they way I always do. By distancing myself from it. I suddenly became very invested in taking photos of the other kids and the harbor and pretended nothing was amiss. Again, though, the following morning, nothing was amiss. We went to a wildlife park. The teenagers took tens and tens of pictures of marsupial genitalia (those crazy ‘roos have no shame), like any normally functioning teenagers would do. We all went out to dinner. I ate too much. Life went on just as it did before the disagreement arose.
This is not how it tends to go in my life. I actively work at not using that unfriend button in the heat of the moment, but if someone annoys me on a regular basis or I feel like they’re trolling my posts with nonsense; unfriending comes really, really easily to me.
I wake up pissed off more days than not, over stuff I’ve argued about with some dipshit from high school who I likely never would’ve reconnected with sans facebook. Let’s pick that apart a little: I’m fighting with someone I probably shouldn’t have connected with in the first place. He or she lives 700 miles away, Facebook is our only current means of connection, and we weren’t really even friends when we actually lived in the same town, which was over 25 years ago.
Utter lunacy. And productive on exactly zero levels.
These sorts of conflicts are not limited to long distance relationships. People who live literally within blocks of one another, who haven’t actually had in person interactions in weeks, months, or years say or do something stupid to one another- ill advised comments, lingering debates, rash reactions. Since it’s done virtually and not in person, there is no context. Neither party knows what shit the other has endured that day. Neither has the complete picture. I am no expert at interpersonal relationships. In fact, I can think of few people I know who are worse at them than I am. But I know THIS IS BAD PRACTICE. And completely avoidable for Facebook acquaintances who live in the same community and could actually talk to one another.
And, I cannot fully tackle the issue of the sounding board Facebook gives to terrible, horrible, no good, very bad racist asshats; and the despair that ensues. Even within my Facebook created algorithmic bubble, I cannot escape the notorious Maisy (name changed, kind of), who lives in my community and posts overtly racist and often libelous tripe; and deeply troubles reasonable thinking folks on a regular (and completely unchecked) basis. I have no doubt there is at least one Maisy in everyone’s community.
I am not saying the bad outweighs the good when it comes to Facebook, though I might be suggesting it. What I’m saying is my teenage children have avoided the bad, and it makes me unspeakably happy.