Oh, The Infantilization of it All! Or, I’m An Old Grump
By Cameron Reed
I’ve been kicking around this thought lately. It’s not a profound one, and it’s most certainly something that’s been written about at length, only I haven’t read it yet. Anyways, I was thinking about two things, really:
1. Growing older on the Internet / Social Media, and
2. Adults unwittingly acting like children by mimicking Internet / Social Media trends.
1. Growing older on Social Media
I’d argue that I’m part of the first generation that has to consider what it means to grow older on social media. Since I was 20, I’ve been on message boards and proto-social networking sites like Makeout Club (shouts!), then LiveJournal, then Friendster, and then Myspace, and then… oh god this is actually just really sad. Ten years later, I’m starting to wonder whether if, or when, this is a thing to grow out of. This is not something that other generations have had to consider.
I think it comes down to whether it’s something you value or not. Recently, I’ve found that I do not and this is obviously a personal choice. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with someone who stays on Facebook until they die. I don’t really care. Rest in peace.
My question is: Should we grow out of social media? As adults, do we really need this weird instant gratification? Shouldn’t we be more confident? We probably don’t need to check in on our friends and acquaintances every single day. It’s the difference between keeping “in touch” versus keeping “up to date.”
For example: my brother told me that his friends announced via Facebook that they were having a baby. Their plan was to sit there with a glass of wine to watch the likes and congratulations roll in. Alternatively, a friend told me that someone they went to high school with announced they had a miscarriage via Facebook. In my opinion, this represents a very bizarre transformation of the public and private spaces. And, this certainly isn’t something that an adult should engage in.
If all the trend pieces are to be believed (and these “trends” don’t extend outside of our privileged Western view of the world), there’s a new phase in life known as “extended adolescence.” This generally takes place during the ten years between high school Graduation until your late-20s/early-30s. If this is a real thing (it’s not), maybe social media is facilitating this phase and quitting these sites is part of growing up and moving on.
I started thinking about this because I noticed…
2. Adults unwittingly acting like children by mimicking Internet / Social Media trends
This is a half-assed theory, but I think that most Internet trends come from teens. From Tumblr to 4chan, teens rule. Exactly how many online platforms are used is shaped by the early adopters (see: Teens.) And so it follows that our behaviour and the way we engage with each other online is largely determined by people still going through puberty.
After an acquaintance of mine, feminist writer Meghan Murphy, wrote about the absurdity of the “selfie,” I started thinking about how the selfie became a thing and what taking one actually means.
I think taking a selfie reflects the worst part of us and social media. It speaks to both our own insecurities and narcissism. You post a picture of yourself, you get likes, and then you feel better. Except that it’s fleeting and meaningless and both superficially inflates one’s self-worth while also ignoring the roots of an insecurity.
It makes sense for a teen to do this. Teens are idiots and still trying to figure out who they are. They’re still forming an identity. Building the confidence needed so they eventually won’t require Likes to feel good about themselves. Grown-ass adults shouldn’t be feeding their egos the same way that teens do. In fact, when adults mimic these types of behaviours it shows teens that this type of instant gratification is enough.
It’s not. Stop it.
* I should note that I’ve been guilty of everything I’m mentioning here. I’m not some old man (I hate the term “digital immigrant”) that’s never fully embraced social media and doesn’t get why these kids waste so much time on it. I have been one of those kids for a decade, I’m only now starting to reflect on it more.
Originally appeared on Cameron Reed's Tumblr.