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Carpenter: Be wary of the siren call of social media, fellow Gen Z-ers

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Ethan Carpenter

Ethan Carpenter

Read Receipts are a 21st century invention. For reference; a “read receipt” is the little “delivered” or “read’’ notification found below your text messages on your phone. This simple banner confirms whether or not the intended receiver of your text has in fact read your message, or does it?

In reality the “read’’ badge only appears once the message itself has been deliberately clicked on and opened up. This doesn’t mean that the entirety of your message has been seen, processed, or comprehended in the slightest.

Now I understand how strangely specific and frankly useless this information can come across. I ask you to explore this concept further to understand if and why read receipts serve any function to us at all, and particularly how this reflects our society today.

I imagine that reading once meant to gaze, process and understand a series of words and sentences. In the day and age of smartphones, “reading” is reduced to simply applying the tip of one’s finger to their screen, and the subsequent opening of a message. The “read receipt” in no way confirms that the information in your message was actually absorbed. Somehow, our society has found a way to completely change the meaning of the word “read,” so what else have we redefined?

I contend that parallels can be seen in mental health, particularly in the self-diagnosing of today’s adolescents. There are countless posts to be found on social media of teenagers claiming to be depressed or anxious, anorexic or even psychopathic. Why is this? What is this intense desire to have a mental illness?

It is a phenomenon that seems to be unique to the 21st century. Social media seems to be a piece of the equation. The idea of receiving instant gratification any time you post a picture, video, or thought is dangerous. These kids are receiving instant approval every time they put themselves out there. The first time there is a hint of disapproval, or the absence of fulfillment, it’s devastating.

So I ask you Gen Z, are you really depressed? Or are you just so acclimated to constant appraisal that you haven’t given yourself a chance to actually be yourself? Do you really have an anxiety disorder, or are you seeking more attention because your tolerance has risen too high?

So what is there to do? I don’t believe we have any exact answers. But I think parenting may be a good place to start. Parents are obviously not solely to blame. Very rarely is it that a parent has bad intentions towards their child. Of course there are exceptions to any rule, but I think it’s fair to say that most parents truly are trying their best to raise their kids to be healthy.

With that being said the environment a child grows up in, does play a role in the behaviors they exhibit later on. I cannot imagine it’s healthy for anyone to grow up on constant display, with a phone camera shoved in their faces 24/7. It makes me sick to see minutes upon minutes of stories posted on Snapchat or Instagram of these poor kids playing with their toys, or singing their favorite song, or frankly, sitting still wondering why in the world they’re being stared at and recorded. It’s like these parents are demanding some sort of performance from their children, no wonder when they grow up they think everything is about them, and that an absence of attention is the presence of agony.

We are a troubled bunch aren’t we, my fellow Gen Z-ers? Yes we can go on about our parents and our society. We can pretend we are malleable creatures, helpless and powerless to our surroundings. Or, we could take some responsibility of our own, and realize some of us may need help.

Be wary of what you are posting on social media; be conscious of how social media makes you feel. There is a difference between mental health, and having a mental illness. This distinction is important. Everyone has trouble sometimes, but that doesn’t mean everyone has a mental illness. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone. Go get help if you need it. This way you can figure out your own issues and take care of them BEFORE you start a family of your own.

One day, 15 or 20 years down the road, if your kid shoots you a text, make sure you actually give it a read, who knows what they’re really saying.

Carpenter is cadet studying psychology at the Virginia Military Institute. He is a member of the VMI wrestling team and a registered EMT.

Carpenter is cadet studying psychology at the Virginia Military Institute. He is a member of the VMI wrestling team and a registered EMT.

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