Recently, I have seen many young individuals pull away from education. Instead, they are on social media trying to be social influencers of some kind.
Last month, I assisted in running a program for young students between the ages of 13 and 16. The program lasted two days, and we were exploring the concept of identity and what it meant to them.
For the most part, I was happy to see that they knew a lot about the negative effects of social media. They were also happy to discuss some of their insecurities when it came to how they looked or felt about themselves.
However, upon asking them what they believed they were good at, many said the following:
Taking good pictures
To my surprise, the young individuals had quite significant social media followings. They were all trying to start something and were not scared of being in the public eye.
They all took part in the latest TikTok trends and were having deep conversations. Although more awareness of the outside world can be helpful, it is time education started having serious conversations about how much exposure is too much.
I was hearing young girls at the age of 13 saying they are going to have a “hot girl summer”. The boys were talking about gender stereotypes and why they are not getting married.
At the age of 13, there is only one place these young individuals could be getting these insights, and that is the media. And although it is not a teacher’s responsibility to watch over their student’s every move, surely education has a duty to shield children from poor reasoning.
So, I would like to use this article to open up some of my thoughts on the matter and where I can see problems arising.
The Young Leading the Young
Before I discuss my worries, I do appreciate that young people are passionate about influencing society. It would be silly for me to believe otherwise, as here
I am writing on deep topics that some may argue are beyond my years. The young are full of energy, and they often hold optimistic views of the future. And in a society that is low on hope, young people stepping up is a good sign.
I also think that with the right message, young people have a lot going for them. They are right in the centre of the societal changes that are happening and have the potential to influence many. And that includes people older than themselves.
However, the young leading the young also leaves room for much false information. Unfortunately, the young do not have the experience needed to govern the world.
Wisdom often comes with age. Although there are a few anomalies, it is safe to assume that growing old is one of the best ways to become wise. And that is due to learning from life and having a range of experiences in life to make good decisions.
As the influencers in our world get younger, it should make us think about what their influence is. For most, they are influencing their peers and those in their age group. Despite them meaning well, it is safe to say that many will potentially misguide their peers.
Unfortunately, we are seeing a lot of this today. 18-year-olds are telling their peers they have the perfect investment strategy. And we see young girls advising their peers on relationship advice.
Although it is encouraging to see the young so enthusiastic to make a change, it is also essential to channel that energy correctly. If not, the age of social influencers may end badly.
It is a trait of the young to not be able to see the bigger picture. Once again, that is not to say that some do not, but it is easy to think shallow at a young age. After all, you have not built the knowledge required to understand the nature of many things.
This is one of the things I believe the current schooling system needs to change. Unfortunately, many children in education develop a black and white thinking style. To them, all questions have simple answers that only require a little work to find.
Due to the way knowledge is transferred in schools, it is easy for students to become dependent. And the examination process is very much black and white.
Surface-level thinking does not just harm students in the long run, but it also harms their belief systems. For a long time, I thought I knew a lot of things because I was in a black and white system. I never once thought about the wider implications of my beliefs and the perception of others.
Unfortunately, many of the younger social influencers I see are surface-level thinkers. They preach one method to do things and tend to ignore the negative implications.
Although we would hope education allows for critical thought, the social influencers today do not think deep enough. And because students are used to being transferred information in one direction, they take the views of others easily.
I have seen my own younger family members read self-help books without critiquing one idea. They consume all the information as if it were fact, and it worries me.
Critical thought is an essential part of deep thinking. And if we have young social influencers running the show, who knows what could happen.
As highlighted in the introduction, I believe that education has a duty to shield both the young and old from falsehoods. That does not mean that they should infringe on the views of others. But it does not mean protecting the young from views that may cause damage to the betterment of society.
Unfortunately, as young people rise to influence through the means of social media, many views are rising that will lead to damage. And I wonder how education will transform to operate in an environment where their students are now the teachers of society.
What do you think the solution should be for young social influencers? It would be great to hear what you think, so please leave a comment.