|Out with the old, in with the new
Author: Richard Singleton
The other day my son and I were tooling around town making unceremonious jokes about various stupid human behavior (most of which we were engaged in, of course). At some point the topic turned to parachute pants – don’t ask – and I found myself in the strange, tenuous territory of trying to describe a fashion faux pas that has long since faded into the blurry, stone-washed, leg-warmed, neon-laced memory of the ‘80s.
Trends come and go. But, do seemingly transcendent giants like Facebook? Well, not for everyone, but for some, there seems to be a slight – for others, a seismic – shift in the way teens are finding their social media fix. Let me come back to that.
The slow fade of teens on Facebook is rivaled by the fast burn of daily online deals for us old geezers (e.g., anyone over 29). The online coupon explosion seems to have imploded upon itself with near cosmic black hole force. And peeking out just over the event horizon is Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, signing off with a wan joke about pursuing family time and then confessing to the reality that he was canned.
Groupon seemed to start out with such a bluster of cool opportunities and smart deals. It’s been in a free-fall, however, according to CNN’s Doug Gross, because of spam, irrelevance, angry businesses and deal fatigue. If you’re an avid user like my family, don’t delete your Groupon app just yet. One of the great things about online businesses is that they’re nimble and often ready and willing to do something different. So, the changing landscape of daily deals may give rise to a new wave of options for us oldies and our need to have half-price chile rellenos, near-free spa days and an occasional kayak trip down the lake for a ridiculously low sum. And, that brings me back to the tweens and teens in your house and mine.
Increasingly, tweens and teens are turning from Facebook to new social media outlets such as Instagram, Snapchat, Pheed, et. al. And all of the adults sang in chorus: why? Well, certainly one reason is privacy. It’s the online equivalent of the once cute doll-filled room that has become an organic chemistry science experiment gone awry, often passing more for a do-not-enter city dump or post-tornadic clean-up site than a place where actual human habitation takes place.
Lest you think I’m only whining, let me be the first to begrudgingly admit that this strange behavior is okay in limited quantities. The big social science word for it is individuation or differentiation. Simply put, mom and dad, our kids are growing up and want to be unique and different. They don’t want or need as much time around us as they used to.
Okay, I can sense your chest getting a little tight and your heart pounding. Mine too! Don’t misunderstand me; teens that cut themselves off from their family and try to live the life of a recalcitrant roommate are not healthy teens. We parents are still in the driver’s seat and still need to establish healthy, loving boundaries that protect our tweens and teens from complete isolation.
But, I digress.
Perhaps just as compelling an argument for teens camping out more away from than on Facebook is the seeming cultural shift from a “listen-about-me” to a “look-with-me” framework; increasingly, we are a visual culture. Some technology writers like Ellis Hamburger argue, “the age of brag is over.” Even though we love to talk about ourselves, it gets tiring to try to talk about ourselves in ways that are saccharinely sustainable in social media venues.
Consequently, sites that teens are flocking to seem to have less focus on verbal smoke and mirrors and more on the capturing of little real-time snapshots of life. In some ways, these are more genuine, more fun-focused and more about creating memories than creating paper-thin personas. Perhaps we adults could take a cue from our kids in that regard. Hey, we are the dorks who used to wear parachute pants, after all.
Richard Singleton, MACE, MAMFC, LPC, is the executive director at STARRY in Round Rock.