Many parents, like myself I imagine, are leery of their children growing up. And at this point in our world, at least in America, growing up means more than hormones, the opposite sex and the struggle of identity pursuing and finding explorations and “rebellions.” It’s the pursuit of recognition and conformation by the “popular,” a collision of a need to stand out (radical individualism) and blending in; the need to stand out in a peer group that has been identified as the “in-crowd” while simultaneously losing oneself in the membership of the crowd; all played out on a digital stage before the “literal” world of a teens existence. It is that very need to be on display while finding meaning and affirmation of that being on display as a member of the “in-crowd.” This is the modern context of teenage angst that as a parent concerns me the most. Because social media, the often overlooked liturgies of the modern rite of passage, the cellphone, bring to the fore the “on display” aspect with an immediacy and ubiquity that even sleep can’t rescue you from.
James Smith succinctly describes my own concerns for my children and intuitions regarding social media. He explains,
The universe of social media is a ubiquitous panopticon. The teenager at home does not escape the game of self-consciousness; instead she is constantly aware of being on display—and she is regularly aware of the exhibition of others. Her twitter feed incessantly updates her about all of the exciting, hip things she is not doing with the “popular” girls; her Facebook pings nonstop with photos that highlight how boring her homebound existence is. And so she is compelled to constantly be “on,” to be “updating” and “checking in.” The competition for coolness never stops. She is constantly aware of herself—and thus unable to lose herself in the pleasures of solitude: burrowing into a novel, pouring herself out in a journal, playing with the fanciful forms in a sketch pad. More pointedly, she loses any orientation to a project. Self-consciousness is the end of teleology.James K. A. Smith, “Imagining the Kindom: How Worship Works pg 145-146
Just say no and help your child learn how to be in the world before they become part of the world. Because self-consciousness is the end of purpose.