Beginning in 8th grade, I was introduced into the wondrous world of having a portable computer. That’s right: At the ripe ole’ age of 13, I received my first laptop, and thus began an unhealthy relationship with social media.
I was a socially active high-schooler. On many occasions, I found myself fighting with my parents to lengthen my curfew, allotting me more time to enjoy the destructive merriment my friend group would engage in. To me, the freedom to do as one pleased was indispensable. I craved time with my friends. I craved time away from my house. More importantly, I craved autonomy.
That’s why, on the weeknights of a school week, where work would overflow out of my binders and the weight of my backpack would bend and twist my spine, giving me scoliosis (actually happened), I rejoiced in the access of having a computer. It took one click to get to Facebook and instant messenger, all of this wrapped in the beauty of knowing my parents had little to no control over where I decided to venture.
However, they did attempt, to the best of their capabilities, to restrict my access to platforms like Facebook. In them, they saw a bedeviling force that depreciated my intellectual facilities while simultaneously driving my motivation levels 50 feet into the ground. Their understanding of my use was that the more time I spent aimlessly engaging with my friends, the less time I would give to my work, resulting in poorer grades and “a waste of my potential.”
Well, to put it frankly, I stood my ground when these discussions would arise. I remained steadfast in my notion that Facebook and messenger applications were the only way I could remain in contact with the social intricacies of school. Through my whining and moaning, I tried to use my limited view on social media to explain the benefits of it, but it hardly worked. I was greeted with disappointment whenever I refused to listen.
Looking back on it, I think my parents had a point. Much like Carr laid out in The Shallows, pervasive use of the internet was changing the nuerophysiological functions of my brain. What defined my development was an itch to click, to change websites, to stay connected online while my brain became more susceptible to distractedness.
But much like the stories of It’s Complicated, my story was indeed nuanced. As Boyd explains, the way adults view their teen’s use of social media is laced with extremities. Many times, they believe their kid is wasting their life away, or dancing in and around dangerous situations where someone online could enchant their kid into drug use, or worse. These fears drive much of a parent’s willingness to control their kid’s online presence.
What they don’t understand is what their kid is really engaging in when he/she goes on social media. Through her research, Boyd found that kids revel in the ability to stay in touch with friends. Their lives are over-saturated with work and sports and other activities, and for teens, social media is how they stay in the loop with friends and acquaintances. Moreover, Boyd’s research indicates the possible benefits of having a robustly active social media presence. She exclaims that the fears swirling around social media can be misguided; in actuality, a kid’s social media has constructive qualities.