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    Posted September 14, 2014 by
    Turlock, California
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Student voices in journalism

    More from Invigorated

    Being a Teenager Without Social Media


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Invigorated was inspired to wirte this because of the 'intense curiosity' she said others have about her decision to refrain from social media.
    - hhanks, CNN iReport producer

    Allow me to introduce myself: I am a teenager. I go to high school, spend time with friends, teach yoga, play the piano, and host a radio show. I also have no social media.


    That’s right. I’ve never made an account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Tumblr, or the likes. No doubt, I’m quite an anomaly in this regard. According to a survey taken last year for the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 81% of youth ages twelve to seventeen use some form of social media. My daily experiences with teens tell me that number is only growing.

    I often receive slight gasps or perplexed looks from my peers when I disclose my Facebook-free status. Adults, too, are often bewildered. Social media and youth seem to be inextricably tied nowadays, and it’s challenging — even for me — to imagine a world in which the former has not shaped the latter.


    Allow me to make one point clear: even as a nonparticipant in this social media revolution, I’ve experienced its ramifications vicariously. And believe me when I say I understand the allurement. Some of the more positive posts and pictures on these sites can, in effect, constitute a twenty-first century self-help book. Teens can turn to tweets or pins for their doses of inspirational quotes, fitness motivation, jokes, or daily tips.

    I am also certainly cognizant of the proverbial “burn book” nature of social media. E-conversations can rapidly take sour turns, as acrid comment after acrid comment is posted on forums for the whole world to see. Something about social media seems to make teens forget that words are couriers of mighty messages, and feelings get shattered as a result.


    But it is neither the helping nor the hurting nature of social media that leaves me with many questions. It is its autobiographical characteristic. What these sites have allowed teenagers — or anybody for that matter — to do is chronicle their journeys. Forget the publishers. Forget the literary agents. Today, the everyday Joe has a mass forum and a global audience right at his fingertips.


    Each “Story of an Ordinary Life” that is produced, however, is prevented from being an “extraordinary” one solely because of the very medium through which it is conveyed. Unlike a traditional autobiography that is limited by a reasonable number of pages, which forces the account to include only key transformative events or critical developing points in a person’s life, social media allows the individual — the writer — to update his story every second. Grabbing coffee at 2 P.M. on Sunday. Vexed by the long line in the shoe store. Noticing that the leaves are changing hue. Struggling through the pages of Brontë or Christie. Angry about inadvertently stepping in a puddle.


    Such minute, mundane details appear to saturate most social media accounts. Some might pose the question: Is there really anything wrong with this? What’s so bad about knowing when reality star Kylie Jenner got a pretzel stuck to the roof of her mouth? Why not be informed that Jenna’s cousin’s friend’s brother just returned from his piano lesson? What’s the big deal?


    I’m not sure there is anything “wrong” with such disclosures. I am, however, wary of what they suggest. Life experiences and stories are too precious to be confined to a series of 140-character tweets. I don’t want youth convinced that their Pinterest pages are their only tokens of expression. I don’t want my generation believing that their Facebook feeds are the only outlets for their voices to rise and be heard. Social media can give the world strokes of one’s experiences but can scarcely suffice to paint a picture with depth.


    When I need a means of releasing, a means of sharing myself, I write. I go on the radio. I appear as a guest on talk shows. I seek out mediums that allow me to relate to the world the totality of my being and allow me to consciously construct the story I want conveyed. As each article or each episode I create hits the web, where it will be imprinted on a digital wall for posterity, I can ensure it’s a chapter of my autobiography that I am proud to share.


    Suffice it to say, I, a teen, fare quite well without social media. I don’t advocate that others follow suit. I do, however, advocate awareness. I want young people conscious that, with each post or pin on a social media site, they are telling their stories. And I can only hope they are proud of these words that they will be remembered by for decades upon decades to come.

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