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The above picture is my high school senior picture posted to my Facebook news feed. I handed that picture out to many of my classmates before I graduated from high school. I posted this picture to my Facebook news feed today, both to see what kind of reaction I would get from my Facebook friends, and also to help myself imagine what my teenage years might have looked like if social media had been around.
I have to say, I’m pretty glad social media didn’t exist as I navigated adolescence. There’s something about adolescent impulse control and narcissistic thinking that makes social media sites nearly unavoidable and almost surely problematic.
Top 10 Reasons I’m Glad I Didn’t Have Facebook as a Teenager
1. All it takes for a bad decision to be seen by everyone who is everyone in today’s world is a cell phone camera and the click of a button. And then it is out there forever. I was a pretty straight-laced kid, and I am still glad my mistakes weren’t immortalized on the internet.
2. You know those inside jokes or inappropriate things that just seemed hilarious? Click “post” and it goes to your news feed. And, even if you have your news feed set to “friends only,” some of those posts still come up in a Google search. Imagine if a prospective employer conducted a Google search to see if you were the right match for a job and came up with all kinds of ridiculous posts from when you were a teenager. Today’s teens may have to deal with that in a few years. I hope they are careful about what they post, but if they are as impulsive as I was as a teenager, I’m guessing they aren’t.
3. Remember that very first person you thought you were “in love” with? Maybe you practiced writing what your name would be if you got married and took his last name. Or maybe you wrote her name in the front of your notebook, or heard a soundtrack in your mind when you saw her walk by. Where is that person now?  Suppose you put all those love notes or yearbook doodles on Facebook. Rather than passing notes of “oh, isn’t he cute?!” between class, you are sending them via private message, or posting it on someone’s timeline. How might having those declarations floating around in cyberspace have an impact on future relationships? What about the slip-up of posting something publicly that was meant for private message? Or forgetting to block someone from a post only to have them read it? Both current and future relationships could be a lot more difficult to maintain if we post all the details on Facebook.
4. My views have changed a lot in the past fifteen years. Whenever someone runs for political office, and the media pulls up comments he or she made two decades prior as part of a mud-slinging campaign, I always grimace. If you were able to pull up comments I made about religion, politics, or relationships (or probably lots of other topics) from my teenage years, you would probably be shocked. All of us are works-in-progress, but today’s world is pretty unforgiving when it comes to changes of opinion.  We have to be very careful about what we post because it could easily be pulled up and used against us later on. Today’s teenagers have far less freedom to safely experiment with ideologies and views because their posts and words are immortalized, but I suspect they are not any more careful than I was.
5. No one really wants a graphic play-by-play of your understanding of the changes the human body goes through during puberty – yours or anyone else’s.  Before you say, “No one would ever post that!” trust me, people can and do.
6. I did some really ridiculous things as a teenager, things I hope my children will never do. In about 7 years, my oldest child will be old enough to have a Facebook account. I would hate for my kids to grow up and be able to stumble upon all Mom’s crazy teenage drama.
7. When I was a teenager and had a friend stay overnight at my house, we talked to each other. We talked about what things were like when we were kids, who we had crushes on, secrets we didn’t tell everyone else, and we bonded. I can imagine those sleepovers would have been dramatically different had we both been posting to our Facebook accounts instead of giving each other undivided attention.
8. Being a teenager in a world with social media is very expensive. I chose not to work during the school year so that I could focus on my studies. When I did work, I put that money toward fun splurge items or for gas in my car. Either parents today are forking out a bunch of money for their kids to have cell phones with internet and data plans, or kids are having to work a lot more hours than I ever did.
9. A major part of the teenage years is focusing on the “I” of the individual rather than the “we” of the family. This is an important life transition as kids try to become their own people rather than mirror images of their parents. The unfortunate consequence of this is nauseating self-centeredness. As a teenager I already focused too much on myself to the exclusion of everyone else. Facebook would have merely given me a platform to legitimize my self-absorption.
10. Earlier today I was reading through my yearbook from my senior year of high school. One person had signed in my book, “You are an inspirational source of inspiration.” I laughed out loud when I read that! We thought we knew it all, had it all together, and were blessing the world with our insight and intellect. Looking back, we knew so little and needed to learn so much. The things that were of utmost importance to me then seem ridiculous to me now. I fixated on how skinny I was, and I desperately wanted to be liked. Looking back on it, I see a beautiful girl with dreams as high as the sky. My perspective was so skewed back then that I’m glad I don’t have a permanent record of it. My own memories are enough.
If any teens are reading this, think for a moment before you post. If you are upset, walk away and come back when you have cooled off. Ask yourself how you would feel if a future employer, spouse or children stumbled upon what you are about to write. And, mostly, I hope that you know you are important, loved, and have a lot to offer the world…so go out and live. And maybe even forget your cellphone at home sometimes. Facebook will be there when you get back, and if Facebook ever disappeared, I promise life would go on. Things worked out pretty well before social media, and I expect they will work out pretty well should it ever cease to exist.