Manage the Dangers & Pitfalls

Although it’s important to give most of your attention and energy to being the author and taking advantage of the opportunities, managing the online dangers is important. There are multiple pitfalls, for example:

Lack of Physical Presence

You just can’t be as present with others when you are online.

  • You can get distracted from in-person direct connections. Keep a balance (the balance may change)
  • You can’t see the effects of your word/texts on another – and they can’t see their impact on you
  • It’s easier to be cruel to others or for others to be cruel to you
  • There is a lack of important non-verbal cues – are people smiling, frowning, snarling, crying, stressed, relaxed, paying attention?
  • It’s easier to avoid problems – and particularly the challenge of ending relationships- online than in person. That can impede problem solving and cause unnecessary hurt.

People are “Photoshopped” = Living a Lie Online

People are now photoshopped to be as ideal as possible – so who can measure up? And when you “photoshop” yourself – how much energy does it take to deal with the gap in what’s portrayed and what you know is real?

Am I Boring?

Too much power is given to “likes” – take the power back. Others are going to great parties, going on 5 star vacations, looking gorgeous, making friends with so many of the coolest people. Why am I so boring? Everyone has a better life than me.

The Reality = You’re Not Boring

You’re not boring simply because you are a teenager on a 10 year heroic journey where you are taking on challenges that affect you on physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual levels.

You have to take risks, call on your courage, be persistent and build resilience. You are dealing with a great deal of unknown and countless mysteries and having to somehow find your way. You have to let go of old ways, discover and master new ways and deal with all the weirdness of “inbetweeinty.” You have to learn at a rapid rate, recover from injuries and setbacks and endure things you wouldn’t think you could endure.

That’s interesting. That’s at the heart of what of what sells books and movies and TV shows. The teen years are a journey with ups and downs, strengths and weaknesses, completions and incompletions, successes and failures, etc. No one is perfect or a complete young adult, but social media pushes that. It’s a lie.

The interesting part is the adventure of the journey, not the completion.

It’s Easy to Get “Hyper-connected”

Too much connection too much of the time can mean too much pressure. You need to disconnect sometimes to keep some balance in your life and to avoid giving too much power to social media.

If you are used to being hyper-connected, a slight diminishment in that connection can feel like being ignored or alone. That is particularly true if too much importance is placed on a particular connection/interaction.

If you are used to being hyper-connected, it’s easy to fall prey to FOMO – “fear of missing out” which can result in a high degree of anxiety and a sense of being disconnected or missing out.

Dealing with Online Bullies

There is no excuse for bullies. None. Anyone who bullies another is a loser – by definition. And online bullies are be the worst because they can hide and they can avoid direct contact.

Unfortunately, online bullies are often part of the journey, so dealing with them becomes important. There is no magic cure for bullies, but there are some things you can do.

  • Make it their problem, their deficit – not yours (there is something seriously wrong with a bully)
  • Say “no thanks” (not playing) and ignore them – yes, that’s easier said than done.
  • Don’t retaliate – ignoring them is the best comeback and helps avoid escalation
  • Educate yourself about bullies, so that you can see that it is really their problem
  • If it continues, tell them to stop, save all messages, talk to trusted adults, block their access where possible, contact the service provider if it’s anonymous
  • Remember that – even if you made a mistake, were awkward or inappropriate, failed at something or didn’t fit in – don’t give any power to the bullying because the one with the real deficit is the bully.

It’s not Just a Challenge for Teenagers

Parents worry about their teenagers and social media, but here are the results for adults (ages 28-73, and active social media users) in one representative study:

  • 60% of people using social media reported that it has impacted their self-esteem in a negative way
  • 50% reported social media having negative effects on their relationships
  • 80% reported that is easier to be deceived by others through their sharing on social media