The other day, I was talking to my son, and someone texted me a question about something I had asked them to do for me. Given he and I were talking when I received the text, I asked if he minded if I responded immediately. He was floored! But not for the reason you may think. He didn’t care if I interrupted our conversation, but he DID care about my response time. “Mom, you never respond immediately. To anyone.
It shows that you are desperate.”
I laughed until I realized how serious he was. And how much it bothered him that I would even THINK to respond to my friend…immediately. We chatted about his feelings for a bit.
My takeaway from our conversation and his response left me unsettled. While I know this is how teens operate daily, it is still hard to understand. Not to mention, it simply makes me sad.
Our kids leave the house every day and are thrust into an adult game that actual current adults never had to play. Thankfully. Teens today have to worry about being “left on read,” “left on delivered,” or “responding too fast.” And who makes up these arbitrary rules? The reality is that they also change. Teens’ feelings about their lives sometimes change daily, meaning these rules change.
Think of how frustrating it would be to want to communicate with your friends or someone you just met, but you have a set of rules you must follow when it comes to connecting with that person. You are not allowed to be your true, authentic self. Gone are the days of easy, sometimes awkward, conversations. No wonder, in an era where we have all the means of immediate connection, we are actually less connected than ever.
It begs the question, are our teens allowed a space for an organic, meaningful connection? Or do they spend so much time playing the “game” and then curating an image around that game (filters) that they no longer even know what it feels like to have a true connection?
I think about this a lot and probably spend an embarrassing amount of time researching, given my interest in human connections. If you take the research and couple it with my son’s response, the outcome doesn’t feel very good to me. It feels like a place where our kids are stressed and not allowed to feel their genuine feelings and be who they truly are. To be their authentic self.
So what do we do? This is the question I am always trying to answer for you. Encourage your kids to be themselves. Not to abide by some arbitrary rule of response time. If they want to engage with someone, encourage them to do it! And not be afraid to reach out or respond. We want our children and teens to honor those organic feelings. I fear that if we do not encourage and support them to do so, future generations will never know what it is like to really, authentically connect with someone.
Kristi Bush serves as a national education consultant and social media safety advocate. She is a licensed social worker with greater than 15 years of clinical practice and health care experience. She attended Troy and Auburn University where she studied social work and counseling. Kristi travels nationally and has spoken with thousands of children, parents, professionals and organizations about the benefits and threats associated with social media. You may reach Kristi through her website at www.knbcommunications.com.