As ‘90s kids, we usually brag about how much better we are than those born in the year 2000 or later.
“When I was 13 years old, I didn’t wear that much makeup.”
“When I was 13 years old, I wasn’t on Facebook”
“When I was 13 years old, I had better things to do than spend all day on social media.”
“This new generation sucks!”
However, instead of blaming the preteens, we should acknowledge the evolution of technology, including social media, as partly responsible for the way of life the majority of tweens follow.
It’s easy to criticize a 13 year old because she’s wearing a lot of makeup, but it’s more easily understood when taking into consideration the thousands of makeup tutorials posted on YouTube or the billions of pictures of flawless models popping up on Instagram.
That thick eyeliner may be a way to feel include in this weird social media community. If you don’t stick out your tongue like Miley when you take a selfie, you’ll never get a hundred likes. If you don’t do the duck face with your best friend, forget receiving comments like “Gorgeous!! <3.”
It almost seems like there are unspoken social guidelines than need to be followed in order to properly behave in this new social media age. No one knows where these rules originated, yet people (and especially younger individuals) feel obligated to conform them, probably because the idea of being rejected from the community is scary. As Nancy Jo Sales states in her article for The Huffington Post blog, a girl she interviewed said, “Social media is destroying our lives.” Yet when she was asked why she doesn’t unplug, she answered, “Because then we would have no life.”
Within these conflicting worlds, there is an unspoken a cry for help. It’s easy to see that Generation Z’s behavior is shaped by external factors that they fear. As hinted before, everything they do and everything we criticize them about is mostly not their fault.
Sadly, these rules along with an eagerness to be accepted lead to something worse than sticking out their tongues Miley-style. According to Sales, sexism is the result of these rules.
“The culture of social media churns away, seeming to pay very little attention, so far, to the protestations of feminists or anyone who objects to its troubling aspects. And girls suffer,” she wrote.
As one example, Sales uses Syracusesnap, a Snapchat story that included naked images of young girls. Social networks can be a vicious cycle. In this case, young boys trying to increase their cool status by sending nude pictures of girls to their friends. On the other hand, girls, to feel accepted as well, are willing to send nudes to boys, because otherwise they might be labeled as “lame.” However, I think the girls suffer more, feeling obligated to send off their bodies in exchange for some popularity and acceptance.
Instead of spending our time criticizing annoying little sisters who act sassily all the time and brag about their followers on Instagram, we should try to guide them along the healthy path, making them understand that a selfie has nothing to do with their true selves.