Teens and the Competition for “Likes”
November 29, 2016
The French E-communications and Postal Authority (ARCEP) 2015 Digital Barometer reported that, in France, “roughly 80% of children 12–17 are active on at least one social media network.1” Another 2015 study, this one from Médiamétrie2, found the rate was 88% for 15- to 24-year-olds. Social media is clearly a force to be reckoned with!
“Like” me, follow me
Adolescence is a time of life when kids often seek to establish an identity through others—it’s all about “what people think.” Being seen as cool by others and popularity online are seen as the fast track to popularity in the schoolyard.
Teens tend to latch on to an image taken out of context and polish it up (adjusting it as they assume a particular studied pose) as a way to exist—be somebody—on the Web. Here the technology is just part of the toolkit of adolescence, deployed in the search for signs of the self in the new world that opens at that age.
Unfortunately for some, this can lead to a complete loss of awareness or objectivity, or perhaps a sudden forgetfulness of that fact that “what happens online stays online—forever.” In the meantime, things that seem awesome in the teen o sphere one day can get old overnight. That’s not to say the Internet and social media are evil. They’re part of daily life. No one wants to ban them—we just need to learn how to use them in a way that fits with our values.
3 Keys to Decoding “Likes”
1. “Likes” can indicate a sincere, objective interest in a post by a friend. Teens, like young adults, often try out various types and areas of self-expression.
2. “Likes” may be a way of showing a more personal interest in the “likee.” That one little click could affect the course of the school year. A “like” could be seeking acceptance into a group, or just be a sign of support and affection, as in “liking” someone’s picture.
3. Purely self-interested, calculated “likes.” These types of “likes” are given in expectation of getting one back. They’re calculated investments in the marketplace of social media existence. Such transactional “likes,” are increasingly common—kind of an “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” exchange.
How to respond to your teenager:
- Don’t judge; your teen won’t understand.
- Talk about the importance of setting priorities in life.
- Encourage your teen to remember to think before posting.
- Work as a team to figure things out. Your teen knows more than you do about the Internet and you know more about life.