Earlier this week, my children and I were released from another two weeks of quarantine. We all spent a lot of time on the internet. Coincidentally, I also finished Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us. I started reading this in our last two weeks of quarantine. We all spent a lot of time of the internet then too…
The internet is not wholly to blame for how self-obsessed the author says we are but it certainly isn’t helping. We need to be careful that carefully cultivated (i.e. fake) online profiles of perfect (i.e. rich and beautiful) people living their best lives (i.e. better than yours) does not breed a sense of personal dissatisfaction and a competition that threatens to disconnect us from each other.
Dissatisfaction and disconnection in the internet age are real but I believe that both are very avoidable in our children if we talk to them about how unrealistic and superficial these portrayals of ‘best lives’ are.
After reading Selfie, I am more concerned about online culture teaching our children that they cannot afford to make any mistakes. The author writes that online culture ‘weaponizes’ people’s mistakes into ‘tools of shaming.’
Even reputable and more traditional media outlets seem to focus more on the mistakes people make rather than what people achieve. Why? Because shaming people is an easy way to attract an audience. I guess that this has always been the case but via the internet children are now more exposed to this most unbecoming part of human nature at an earlier age. I think it is becoming harder for children to accept that they can learn and grow from mistakes when online culture and those in a position to influence it benefit from humiliating those who make them.
As educators and parents, we need to ensure that our children know that there is not a mistake that they cannot learn from, grow from, and make right. It takes humility to admit and bounce back from a mistake. If there is one thing that online culture lacks it is humility. Our children need to learn that from us and a good way to do that is to let them in on the mistakes we make and how we bounce back from them.
Storr, W. (2019). Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us (1st ed.). Harry N. Abrams.