The typewriters of the 20th century have been replaced with the Androids of the 21st. What used to be the Pony Express is now the World Wide Web, full of millions upon millions of stored bits of data and information. In particular, this has become the average teenagers natural habitat in modern society. As we read in “Internet Communities, Identity and Self-Affirmations”, Online Communities often allow them to explore their identity, work through issues, and explore self worth. Today’s teenagers use these online communities as a means of gaining a sense of belonging amongst their peers. These communities many times allow teenagers to join communities that they are just not comfortable openly joining. Some teenagers use these sites as a way to overcome shyness and practice communicating with people. (http://nvate.com/5905/interpersonal-skills/)
On the flip side, these Online Communities can play detrimental roles in teenager’s identities. These Communities expose our teens to sexting, “Facebook depression”, privacy concerns, cyber bullying, and reduced face-to-face social skills. Give a teenager a cell phone, as my children were, and their social identity begins to dissipate. As teenagers, they don’t care about the Jordanian pilot crisis; they care about Ashley’s new Instagram post or John’s new Facebook post. Besides being anti-social, teenagers usually fall victim to personal reforms over such Online Communities. Some teenagers use these sites to enhance their identities and embellish who they really are. Others use them as a way to gauge how popular they are based on how many “friends” or followers they have. As we learned from the Always Super Bowl commercial, adolescent’s self-confidence diminish during puberty. For the last ten to fifteen years, what have teenagers with low self-confidence used as a safety net for these changes? Social networking sites. As Amanda Enayati tells us in “Facebook: The Encyclopedia of Beauty?”, teenagers now hold themselves to new standards based off of both celebrity and local appearances. Our youth strives to have more followers, more likes, and more re-tweets than their neighbors, and their self worth lessens each time they see a friend with more of any of the three. As we read in “Internet Communities, Identity and Self-Affirmations”, Virtual Communities provided by social networking sites offer online relationships that make us seek and gain approval, as if there is no other way to find it.
Besides the social decay and insecurities, Online Communities pose a danger to teenagers in aspects of physical and mental safety as well. Chris Hansen of Dateline shows us the danger of physical abuse and possible online misconduct, while incidents of cyber bullying show us the mental affects that social networking sites can have. We would love to believe that these things are rare occurrences and just happen to the reckless internet users, but studies show that nearly 43% (https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-cyber-bullying) of all teenagers have faced cyber bullying. Even parents are getting involved in cyber bullying. Does anyone remember the story of the mother who built a fake social media account to bully an old friend of her daughters? She ended up accidentally bullying her own daughter into committing suicide. Either American teenagers are greatly losing their online awareness skills, or the problem is becoming more eminent. While teenagers argue that their online profile and number of online friends they have is important, the real importance is how successful one is in contributing to society, not a thread of tweets. Are teenagers better off participating in Online Communities? Should parents help teens see that their social lives are being traded for E-greatness, and our society could be full of great thinkers and activists if only the young turned off their electronics and were willing to have an actual face-to-face conversation with another human being?