Do kids have a different persona than their true character when using social media? Is their on-line personality authentic? Here’s what four teens ages 17-19-years had to say:
‘Amy’: I think most kids have a different persona, but for the most part it is an authentic representation of themselves. My personality on-line is just an exaggerated and less filtered version of myself. At times, I feel more comfortable on-line; I have a chance to edit what I’m saying much more than I can when I’m speaking in person. Being on-line gives you more freedom to be more confident and say what you really feel.
‘Elias’: Teens have different persona. Teens on social media essentially bring out their true feelings on-line, because they are hiding behind a computer. Teens’ identities are authentic on-line some of the time, because it’s like a deep yearning for the things you want to do and/or say in real-life. You can see a lot more people voicing their opinions on-line towards someone rather than in person (i.e. twitter beef). Social media has become an area in teens’ lives where they don’t feel afraid to be who they actually are. I feel because our generation was born in this technological era, constant communication via the internet and social media is an obsession that we turn to for everything. Overall, I think it actually develops teen identity because it helps us show us features of our personality that we’re too scared to show in real-life (such as high self-esteem)…. at the same time it also promotes narcissistic behaviour – people try to get more followers than their friends on Twitter just to show their “Popularity”. It’s the same for collecting Instagram followers. A negative follow-following ratio to teens is something that they feel makes them unpopular.
‘Carrie’: Social media is taking over the world and that’s not necessarily a good thing. It is taking away the ability for people, especially young people, to use basic interpersonal face-to-face communication skills, both in professional interviews and casual conversations. People tend to be more outgoing over social media and say things they wouldn’t normally say to a person’s face, whether it’s good or bad. Additionally, people, myself included, tend to speak differently to people over social media, especially when texting to communicate. It’s not intentional, but some people’s style of texting is different, and I just tend to follow suit with their style, sometimes straying from my personality.
Another major issue that comes with social media is misinterpretation. It is impossible to read tone and intended meaning into text, and that’s when messages get misinterpreted and people often get offended or hurt which is often unintentional. That’s why face-to-face communication is vital; it’s so full of emotion and meaning can be seen in people’s actions and expressions.
Two things happen on social media when my friends use social media (me included).
- People can portray a more exaggerated self or be someone else.
- Social media gives you an opportunity to be more authentic. You’re more confident because you’re not saying it to people’s faces. You can be more sassy and more open because there’s a comfort layer of anonymity or padding because it’s not face-to-face communication. On-line, people feel more honest; they’re not being judged in person. I.e. You may not feel comfortable talking about feminism in front of people, but on-line, you feel brave and say what you want.
So what does this mean for parents of teens?
Aside from knowing you teens on-line personality, parents also need to speak to their teens about the internet, privacy and safety sooner than later. This topic is an ongoing discussion at our house. I especially worry about my 14-year-old and her use of Snapchat. This app really does give kids ‘the false sense of security’ the pictures they post will disappear or self-destruct forever. Here’s a great resource I found to help parents have a heart-to-heart talk with their kids about the use of Snapchat. Check out this valuable website CoolMomTech.com.
We also need to make sure our kids are able to effectively speak or mingle with other adults and teens in person. They should have the interpersonal skills to feel comfortable with their peers or adults alike. Recently, I felt I had to push my 18-year-old daughter to go to a principal’s reception at her university. She felt uncomfortable and nervous about attending since she didn’t know anyone else who was attending. Even for adults, this type of social setting can feel awkward or distressing , but it’s just as important today, our kids converse with ease and poise whether they’re behind a screen or face-to-face.
I’ve always been a stickler for grammar and spelling. To stay competitive in many roles in business, not only do our kids need to interact well with others, they also need to learn to write well – texting and on-line writing has its limitations in developing written communications skills.
Do you know your teen’s on-line persona and is it much different from their authentic self?
**Special thanks to AH, AD, EJ and CM for taking the time to share your ideas and taking the time out of your busy days at university! Love to you all!