By Bridget Sjoberg |
A few weeks ago, I watched the movie “Eighth Grade”, which follows the life of a young girl during the last week of her eighth grade school year. The film is phenomenal and is an incredibly realistic depiction of the feelings of awkwardness and loneliness that often accompany growing up as a young teenager.
However, what stood out most to me when watching the movie was how large a role social media played into the storyline, even for a girl who is around 13 or 14 years old.
Whether it be the lead character’s cringe-worthy YouTube channel or nightly sessions spending hours on Snapchat or Instagram, it’s clear that social media is an almost vital part of her life and an outlet to make her feel included and valued by others.
While I think that including so much social media in the movie was the right choice in order to make the film as realistic as possible for today’s generation, noticing how much social media was present in the lives of middle schoolers was worrisome to me and made me compare the movie to my own upbringing.
When I was in middle school, not a lot of kids had social media, or personal laptops and iPhones to spend time on. Most kids my age began seriously engaging in social media once high school rolled around, so I luckily consider myself as having experienced my childhood without the influence of social media or constantly being involved in technology.
If I didn’t get invited to someone’s birthday party or social event, it was hard enough hearing people talk about it during the next few days at school. I can’t imagine growing up and having to witness the whereabouts of others being constantly streamed on Instagram or Snapchat stories.
Although technology and social media are forced to be a large part of my life now given the fast-paced and internet-driven society we live in, I consider myself and other young adults around my age as at least having some perspective on the topic. While we see social media as entertaining, we are also able to realize that it’s not vital and that life will go on if you don’t check your feed every day or post something on your story every time you hang out with people.
However, I get nervous that this is not the case with the younger and younger generations being exposed to social media at a younger and younger age.
While the idea of social media and documenting my life online will never be fully normal to me, I see that younger generations are being raised and growing up with the presence of social media on a daily basis, and I worry.
I worry that social media and the concept of finding personal value in an online profile is a completely normal topic for them. I worry when I see young kids that are used to posing or holding up products for their parent’s sponsored Instagram pictures. I worry when I see 11 and 12-year-olds posting constant updates about their life online.
Growing up and experiencing the milestones of your childhood and teenage years is difficult enough, and the constant presence of social media just adds to the hardship. Feeling pressure to not only have an active social life but also to showcase this life to others online shouldn’t be something that kids as young as nine or 10 should have to experience.
While my time in eighth grade may have been a bit different than that of the lead character in the movie, I recognize that social media is almost unavoidable now and that it is just a part of reality for younger kids to partake in during their upbringing.
While we may not be able to completely eradicate online platforms for elementary and middle schoolers, my hope is that parents and teachers can do their best to inform young people that social media is fun, but doesn’t in any way give your life more value and meaning—only your relationships with others and the way you treat people can do that.