Saturday, March 14, 2015

Digital whitewater and teens

At a school climate committee meeting the other day, someone mentioned that they thought the emergence of social media has dramatically increased the complexity of the lives of teens.

I think this is kind of profound, and I think it's not just teens whose lives have been complicated, but what's it all about? A few thoughts:

1) Powerful distractions are ALWAYS just a click away. I was talking with student a couple of weeks ago about his playing games on his cell phone while he worked on his assignment. He said, "Yeah.. I kind of wish there weren't so many distractions in life."

2) And social distractions are among the most powerful, if not the most powerful. We are, after all, hypersocial animals. I used to think that was just the ants, bees, wasps and termites, but the more I learn about humans, the more we look similar. And cell phone social media puts all of this just a tap away, any time, anywhere.

3) The size of social circles this puts us in blows Dunbar's number out of the water. We left 150 in the dust 10,000 years ago, but texting, FB, Twitter, Snapchat, have vastly accelerated this effect.

4) The result: Social-emotional singularity, a point beyond which we can't predict the future. The effects of these changes rippling through our minds and society are unpredicatable.

5) This causes stress. Ours has been called a "whitewater" world, and with good reason. We are riding the wave of massive change, and teens are right at the front, right at the time in their lives when social factors seem most important, and when hormones and mental development are screaming for adventure and excitement.

6) Take home message: None of us really have this mastered, and we're all in it together. This calls for understanding, and it calls for intentionality in exploring these issues and working on dealing with these changes together. Need teach first ourselves, then our students how to adapt.

Just thinking.

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