As you’ll no doubt be aware, we are an IT company and as such, we are huge advocates of using the right technology to simplify our lives, to make our personal and professional lives more productive and to ensure that we get value from it both in terms of financial outlay but also, perhaps crucially, as a means of satisfaction.
We All Need Friends
Remember the one where Joey puts on every item of clothing Chandler owns? What about the one where Ross almost drank the glass of chicken fat to prove his love for Rachel?
Between 1994 and 2004, Friends captured the zeitgeist of what it meant to be a pre-internet friend. It was idealised to the max but it was the dictionary-definition of what friendships used to be like; face-to-face communication, visiting each other, catching up for coffee to see how last night’s date went, but to today’s teenagers, this method of interacting must seem as old-fashioned as the rest of us watching The Young Ones first time around and thinking that university life was actually like that.
With the phenomenal proliferation of social media, YouTube and online gaming, the job of a teenager is to separate themselves from their parents. To have things that were just for them and better yet, that their parents thought were ridiculous, inane and pointless (think Tiswas, the Airplane movies or The Simpsons). While young people find themselves in an age of screen-addicted, always-online social anxiety, they are also caught between a rock and a hard place.
They feel a laughable scorn for the steam-powered pace of life we endured but there is also a strange, unquantifiable envy for a simpler time.
Friends has endured, so much so that Netflix have just paid Warner Bros. $100 million for an additional 12-month license. Today’s kids are watching it just like we did and they’re laughing at it just like we did. The clothes and haircuts might be of different time but the jokes are still funny, and that’s the important bit.
But is it all getting too much?
Is Social Media Affecting The Life Satisfaction Of Our Teenagers?
The simple answer it seems, is ‘not really.’
In a study of 12,000 UK adolescents conducted between 2009 and 2017 by the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, authors Professor Andrew Przybylski and Amy Orben have concluded that teenage life satisfaction is barely affected by their use of social media (less than 1%), citing family, friends and school life as all having a greater impact on their wellbeing.
In fact they concluded that ‘99.75% of a person’s life satisfaction has nothing to do with their use of social media.’
The study asked thousands of 10 to 15-year-olds to say how long they spent using social media on a normal school day and also to rate how satisfied they were with different aspects of life.
They found that girls are slightly more affected than boys but less than half of the effects were statistically significant.
Parents seem to be fixated on ‘screen time.’ i.e. how long their kids were spending on their phones, tablets and computers but Professor Przybylski says that we need to retire this notion of our fixation on time spent on screens and focus more on its interference on other elements including sleep, exercise and time with friends.
What Do Teenagers Really Need?
It’s an age-old question that has been asked since teenagers were invented in the 1950s and of course the answer differs for every generation. But as we move through the digital age according to William Sutcliffe writing in The Times this weekend, a ‘disconnect has arisen between the cultural needs of teenagers and what is being provided for them.’
The trouble is that the narrative of teenagerhood being a dark, depressing and angst-ridden decade has prompted those creating their entertainment to forget about what it’s actually like growing up.
The trouble is that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Entertainment producers are so sure that teenagers are disappearing into a world of YouTubers, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram and gaming – and not buying cinema tickets or reading books – that they aren’t creating content for them and by that logic, they will sink more and more into the online world. As Sutcliffe writes ‘if our culture simply allows this to happen, it will be a tragic loss.’
More so than ever before, teenagers need stories about real people (fiction or otherwise), about how they act and interact, how they fall in and out of love, how they cope with real-life situations and most importantly, how they make each other laugh.
But What About The Pressures Of Social Media?
It’s a clear and present challenge for teenagers, no doubt about it. It can promote feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image and low self-esteem but it’s also an incredibly valuable outlet for those who either can’t or don’t want to interact face-to-face.
The inherent danger and pressure of social media is a whole different topic and one we’re probably not in a position to solve but it seems for now that as long as they’re not face-deep in screens 24/7 and taking a break every now and again to laugh at Joey’s adorable stupidity, Chandler’s sarcasm, Monica’s neuroses, Phoebe’s insanity, Rachel’s naivete and Ross’s insecurity, they’ll be OK.
Granted, this blog is a bit of a departure from the detailed yet eminently readable tech-based offering we usually serve up on a weekly basis but we hope you’ve enjoyed it and as always, we’ll look forward to your comments and thoughts!
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