Growing up in a Social Network Age
In an article on Newsweek.com about labels that are put on us when we are in high school this sentence really caught my eye.
And how do those labels shape who we become in an age when, thanks to social networks, we don’t really ever leave our adolescent friends behind.
This is one of the profound effects of social networks and to a certain degree cell phones. It is much harder to get away and reinvent yourself.
I keep thinking about my own experiences in going away to college. I got away, and far away, and that distance effectively cut me off from my past and from the labels that I had always carried with me. In a new place I was able to start fresh and discover friends who saw me for who I was then, not who I had been in the 3rd grade. It was a scary, sure, but it was also liberating. For the first time in my life I was able to be free of the labels of my life and strive to find new ones.
Although I have reconnected with my old friends recently, getting away from them was vitally important for me. It shaped me into the person that I am today, and helped me to break out of some very negative habits and thoughts. I will never forget the first time that my wife went to hang out with my high school friends and she commented on two things 1) the way that they treated me (not negatively, just different) and 2) how I was different around them. She didn’t know me as the person I had been in high school.
But now this separation from self, this starting over that has been part of our culture for a few generations is shifting again back* to a time when your past is always known. As an increasingly old fart I think this is a bad thing. But then again I think that about cell phones too.
*not many generations ago people never left their hometown. They were born, lived, and died all within a few mile radius with the same people for their whole lives. Try “reinventing” yourself when the whole town remembers when you were a baby.