The Real World then and now
I graduated high school in 1992–the same year that MTV debuted The Real World. I don’t know if you remember when the Real World first aired, but for me, as a Senior in high school, watching the “real” lives of kids just a few years older than me, was intoxicating and eye-opening. I didn’t miss one episode (DVR was not around in 1992, but there was this thing, called the newspaper, and in it they had something called a “tv guide” which listed all the programs and when they aired. I’m pretty sure you can see both a newspaper and a tv guide in a museum somewhere).
If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, here’s the premise of the Real World:
“This is the true story… of seven strangers… picked to live in a house…work together and have their lives taped… to find out what happens… when people stop being polite… and start getting real…The Real World.”
Do people still “tape” things?
Anyway, I was enthralled with the Real World. It was the first time the curtain was pulled back and one could be a fly on the wall in an apartment housing late teenagers and early twenty-somethings. I rooted for Julie and Eric to finally tell each other they loved one another, I cringed at Kevin’s inability to connect with his roommates and struggle to be authentic, I applauded Julie and Norman for loving each other so well despite their differences, and I was challenged to think for myself regarding the injustices and political hot-topics that the show exposed.
(I never really connected with Andre’s storyline. Can I get an Amen?)
The Real World impacted me in a very real way. I mean, my website name is an homage to the reality show.
I know now that the show was not reality, but rather it was scripted and staged; but, I’m okay with that because it provoked me to think critically about what I believe regarding the topics they dealt with on the show.
Several weeks ago, Oprah had the original cast on her Where Are They Now show and I set my DVR to “tape” the episode. Because these were the first strangers I ever “followed.”
As I watched, my favorite daughter took a seat next to me and began asking questions that only a teenager in 2015 would ask:
“Wait, I’m confused, there was a time when reality shows weren’t on tv?”
“Hmmm…so this was ‘fascinating tv’ back in your day?”
“I don’t get it. Why was it such a big deal to see their everyday lives? Just look at their twitter or Instagram.”
I would say, “bless her,” but really, bless us–those of us trying to raise tweens and teens in a culture where being a fly on the wall is the rule, not the exception. And, bless them–those tweens and teens who live with the reality of seeing behind the curtain of every single moment.
It’s unchartered waters and many of our teens are drowning or drowning others. We, parents, either submerge ourselves into it and keep tabs on our loved ones or we play the “well, I figured things out as I went along, my kid will too” card.
I am confident that my kids will figure things out as they go, but I want to be a sojourner with them as they go. Because figuring it out as you go is often costly and filled with regret.
So, I’ve jumped right into the waters with them. If that makes me a “stalker,” I’ve been called much worse.
But, I’m still not a 15-year-old in this Instagram, twitter, snap chat world.
So, I asked my favorite daughter, Kendall, to share what she’s learned and what she is learning from this in-your-face social media world we live in and what she would share with another teen her age.
Let me be very clear, Kendall doesn’t have a perfect track record with social media/texting. Emotions are high at this age, so is insecurity and self-doubt. I’ve yet to meet a teenager who has navigated the social media world perfectly.
Actually, I’ve yet to meet anyone who has handled the social media world perfectly.
Know that she is writing because she wants people to learn from her mistakes and benefit from some of the things that have helped her navigate these waters. I’m protective of her, so if you have something negative to say about her post, email me. She’s stepping out there in vulnerability and I want to encourage vulnerability and transparency in my kids.
She’s been a guest blogger for me before. Here is her previous post if you’re interested.
Here is what she wrote:
Being a Teenager in a Social Media World
Social Media and I have a love/hate relationship. I love keeping up with people through social media. I love the opportunity or encouragement it offers, and I love the chance to be a light.
Don’t get me wrong, social media is tricky. It can be hurtful, full of spite, and often times destructive. I’m gonna throw some numbers at you for a sec, but just hang with me.
- 7.5 million Facebook users are under 13 years old
- Girls 14-17 send an average of 100 texts a day
- About 75% of students will say they have visited a page that bashes another student
I hate when my mom starts a sentence with “back in my day…” but when she explains how technology was back in her day, it always amazes me. Something about a world without social media (or the internet!), cell phones, iPads, and laptops, just makes me think about how much drama would be eliminated and the amount of face-to-face conversation that we miss out on now.
As much as I wish I was a teen “back in my mom’s days,” God calls us to be good stewards of what is given to us, including social media. Here’s what I’ve learned thus far, and don’t get me wrong, God is still teaching me His ways and humbling me in the process.
1. Be Encouraging
You don’t have to lie and comment that someone looks beautiful if that’s not the case (one thing my mom always says is, “everything that’s said needs to be true, but not everything that’s true needs to be said”). Gets me every time! But, there is ALWAYS something encouraging that can be said. I know I’m stating the obvious here, but words are hurtful and just because it’s behind a screen doesn’t make it sugar-coated.
Social media is not the place to resolve conflict. Nothing says maturity more to me than when I get a text saying something along the lines of “my feelings are hurt, can we meet up and talk about it?” I get so discouraged when I read a tweet or see a comment hinting about someone’s hurt feelings or a post that comes right out and says their feelings are hurt. Let’s not use social media as a way to hint at conflict, avoid conflict, or create conflict.
2. Be Prepared
When we look at people’s Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or whatever, we are comparing their highlight reel, to our behind the scenes footage. We know that comparison is the thief of joy. Be prepared to fight against comparison.
Excuse me for being blunt, but be prepared to have your feelings hurt. You’re going to get your feelings hurt and you are going to hurt someone’s feelings. Nothing like not getting invited and then social media rubbing it in your face. It’s happened to me before and I know I’ve done it before.
3. Be Authentic
To be authentic doesn’t mean you have to post every feeling on twitter because that’s just obnoxious. When I see a girl’s page (who is interested in one of my brothers) on Instagram and it’s full of selfies, I am quick to tell my brothers to RUN! You don’t have to be a solid (edited) 10 in every picture because we aren’t perfect. We do not live a perfect life. As nice as it is to post flattering pictures, let’s examine our heart. Are we dwelling on earthly compliments? Searching for worldly approval and likes? I am guilty of these things because it feels good! But, let’s be confident and content with who God made us to be and embrace our uniqueness. I know the enemy is going to use social media to try make us feel otherwise, let’s not believe it.
We are the first generation to grow up with this technology. Are we going to choose to steward it well? Are we going to use it for self-promotion or to give God glory? I believe that what the enemy means for evil, God chooses to turn it for His good. I don’t want to use it for evil. Join me in using it for good?