I realised halfway through writing the post below that it is getting longer than I expected. Therefore, I added ‘part one’ to the title, and I intend to continue to write about the topic ‘future’ in later posts.
Through my life, I happened to come across various personality tests. I have never thought much into them. I think they might create more self-awareness, but that should not define or restrict who you are as a person. Not a while ago, I watched a talk with Stephen Fry on how you can take care of your mind. Within the discussion, he encouraged people to think beyond their limiting beliefs. Furthermore, he said that “information is not the end goal for an individual, you do not get happier the more you know.”
Bearing this in mind, I have taken another personality test with the following results: assertive, feeling, intuitive, judging and extraverted. Although the latter I would say I am an ambivert: I gain energy from people but I am okay to spend time alone. Based on how they describe the traits, it feels fitting. It might feel the same for you when you take it. However, what does that tell us about who we can become in the future?
If I think back, I tried to shelter my personality as I could while I was a teenager and then a young adult. I am the generation who had some blessed years without the internet. Therefore, privacy meant more to me than ever when everything started appearing on the internet. Unique information was not unique anymore. People uploaded hundreds of pictures about themselves on the predecessors of the well-known social media platforms.
I did not want to be seen but I was. At first, I did not want to handle it so I pushed all of my energy towards getting into bigger and bigger communities. This meant I moved from a little town to the capital, from the capital to a bigger country, from that county to another country. The more people I met the more experiences I had about feeling noticed. This was a gradual change for me to realise how I want to represent myself whether it is online or offline.
I cannot recall what I was googling after when I ended up watching an interview with Jonathan Haidt, who is a social psychologist, on the connection between social media and anxiety. It just grabbed my attention, and I watched the rather long interview. It made me think about the future. The future for the next generations to come.
Check out Jonathan Haidt’s books on Amazon for similar content.
I am fortunate that social media entered my life when I was mature enough to handle it. As a result, I do not worry about other people’s opinions. I respect them as they are, but they do not influence me as an individual. If someone, however, lacks the emotional and mental support, I can see how obsessed or depressed they might become about ‘likes‘ and ‘influence’.
It may be even more true for younger inexperienced people. Then, the question is how to help? This is the area, which the interview attempted to address. My take-away was that it is a balance between protection and challenge. It was not straightforward for me how to do this well.
One of the examples was that it is OK to let children experience unfortunate happenings in life such as peer critique or falling over a fence in the garden. These are fixed point experiences, and people can learn from it. Whereas on social media, whatever happens, that is a recurring experience. If it is bullying, it sticks more as it is there 24/7, which results in anxiety. There was a recommendation during the conversation to shield youngsters from social media till the age of 16. This does not seem feasible to me.
I do think though that education is our responsibility. Not only Twitter, Facebook, YouTube need to step up as organisations, but also us, people who create content on these platforms. Let us consciously build the future for people coming after us. Help people to ease their anxiety, and exhibit the behaviours that we would like to see from others. It matters how you choose to respond.