Updated: Apr 23, 2019
I've always wondered how so many people in the world can agree on so little.
Growing up in a world so divided on opinions, I have become amazed how anyone in history ever made decisions. No social media. No crowd to play for, because the papers didn't have time to over analyze everything.
As a millennial like myself, people are constantly telling you what to think and what to believe, belittling you if you disagree with them. It can be nearly impossible to understand what is "right" and "wrong" anymore.
As I have documented before, in the world of politics this decision between what is "right" and "wrong" comes down to the Right and the Left. That is, Republicans and Democrats, everyone vying for your attention, but more importantly, for your follows and likes, your reposts and comments.
Do you have to listen to all of this noise? No.
But in a world dominated by social media, we are now more than ever living our life through everyone else's lens, whether it's right or wrong. How often do we every day see a conflicting series of videos that could make you feel more than one way about an issue?
You can wake up in the morning, and see a video of police brutality making you angry with the institution as a whole, but later that afternoon you could come across a "Blue Lives Matter" type video showing a police officer doing good things, and so you are left wondering who is right and wrong while you buy a shirt with a blue stripe.
So often, people on social media are posting about their lives and with everything in the world, there will always be negative stories that don't relate to your life. The simple answer here is that there no longer is such a thing as right and wrong, if there ever really truly was to begin with.
While murder and theft and battery and rape fill out a long list of things that are - I would wager to say - universally frowned upon, there are a multitude of other issues in the world that have no clear right or wrong. It is all up to perception - our understanding of what we are seeing/hearing/smelling, etc.
Perception is one of the strongest tools in the social media world.
As I have continued to go down the path of mass media education, I have become increasingly aware of how powerful perception can be, which may seem like common sense, but there is more to it than just how it affects social media.
Social media is the most accessible avenue for perception to be affected, because it's become a part of the social fabric in our country. But often, the reality we are watching is not the reality of the world. Content creators, bloggers, the Barstool sports empire, Donald Trump, everyone is trying to push perceptions on you, rather than allowing you to understand for yourself.
But we all experience this issue of perception in our daily lives obviously.
Growing up in the age of technology, millennials are being told by numerous different people what they are supposed to believe, and unfortunately they fall prey to it very quickly.
As normal people do, they complain about problems.
With social media, people can immediately start posting about their problems in life, and the comments add up creating an image of a world that is falling apart. Before long, you find yourself buying into the concept that there is no positive to be found, leading to a depressed state of mind.
This starts with the perception of classmates and other peers who fall into the same social circles, and who are dealing with the same issues. Many times, these peers are the ones tweeting about how bad their lives are.
Much like the Breakfast Club, social media has become a proving ground that MY problems are more important than your problems. No this isn't the theme to Breakfast Club, but you saw over the course of the movie that these young students had to gain perspective on their lives, helping them to understand everyone is struggling in some way.
But social media conversations are not meaningful, as much as they are just random thoughts and streams of consciousness.
As a slight nod to my older readers, I included this clip because it tackles the idea of perception head on in a number of ways.
Watching a recent Joe Rogan interview with a dietitian, I heard something interesting that applies to society equally:
"Every diet works. If you stay regimented to that diet, you will see changes in your body. The problem is that for some people, the changes aren't beneficial like they expected, but the diet works."
For millennials growing up, roles work, roles such as the brain, or the athlete, the basket case and the princess. But that doesn't mean they are within the best interest of that student.
Well yes, this is common sense I know.
But what kids fail to realize - what I especially failed to realize - is that perceptions are created by others to place you in a role you are expected to fit. Myself for example, I was expected to be an athlete because I had always played sports and a good student because of my teacher influences with my mom.
Is that wrong? Certainly not.
But what I failed to realize - and what I now regret - is that those perceptions ruin growth for every student, but it's not like there aren't structures in place to help these perceptions. How can you fully understand what your potential is if you never try new things?
Stepping on a college campus as a freshman student athlete, I was encouraged to be active and to be a frat member. I was encouraged to step outside of my perceived role and be something different than what I had been growing up.
Unfortunately, for a regularly cynical person like myself, perceptions towards other people are crucial in formulating how I react to situations. So naturally, my perception was that they simply wanted me to be more involved for good publicity and a bump in recruiting. What college isn't.
Was I right or wrong? Like I said, there never really is a true answer to this question in a lot of cases.
If I had gone that route and found happiness being deeply involved, then technically speaking I would have been wrong in my immediate perception. Had it worked the opposite way, then obviously I could claim I was right.
But herein lies the problem with always looking for right and wrong in a world of gray: right and wrong doesn't always equal happiness, and that is becoming truly the only thing that matters for you going through the formative stages of your life.
Selfishness in terms of emotional gratification has become encouraged by a lot of people on social media as I have begun to notice, using ideas or hash tags such as self care, or my favorite TV Show call back, "Treat yo-self".
How do you determine right or wrong when it comes to taking care of yourself?
You don't, because as Friends has shown us, there truly is no selfless good deed. So by that logic, there always will be a driving force behind your actions that ultimately may someway pay off for you.
Help an old lady across the street? Feel good. Put in some extra work with a friend so they can understand their homework? Feel good, albeit tired and frustrated.
The point here is this: perception is the true gauge on whether or not you should do something, not some ten commandments style list of right and wrong. The lessons you learned from your parents, the lessons taught to you by your teachers, all of it works to shape your perception.
Perception is formed from personal experiences and understanding of a situation.
This is why America in 2019 doesn't agree on anything, outside of the fact that Game of Thrones may have finally surpassed the Office as everyone's favorite tv show. We live in such segmented worlds, protected from the facts and realities of people elsewhere, buying in to the hype created by viral posts.
I always hear the statement, "you guys have it so much easier now than I ever did when I was your age. We had to read books".
To this, I would respectfully say you're wrong. The invention of technology and social media has made high school a living hell for everyone in it, and it will continue to climb the ranks until adulthood becomes dominated by your standing on social media.
See, when you read a book, the book didn't talk back, or subtweet, or create a finsta, it simply conveyed ideas and themes from around the world. Moreover, a book would tackle one general issue.
In 30-40 minutes on Facebook, I can go through a wide range of emotions starting with a nice video of a police officer saving a puppy, moving to police brutality and climate change, before landing on the issue of abortion and trying to grapple with whether it is apparently okay to either kill the baby or the mom.
Spoiler, the answer should be neither.
Perception, your ability to understand what you are seeing based on what you have experienced and been told. Every day, millennials are experiencing some heavy material and content, all the while being told they are the worst generation.
Yet for millennials like myself, we are just now reaching our twenties, and have had no real way to affect change on the world around us. We simply are forced to listen to adults shoving ideas down our throats to shape our perceptions, forcing us to feel guilt in our inaction, and allowing us to follow them blindly in our action.
We live in a world where gut reactions and immediate emotional uproar are common, making it nearly impossible to think on a rational level for many.
I recently joked with my dad that I don't think I could ever actually give up social media, because it is the driving force of what I do for a living. Having said that, I realized after the fact that it wasn't so much a case of FOMO, but a fear of skewed perception.
I would wager on a daily basis I can spend anywhere close to 3-4 hours a day living on social media, and it has definitely changed my opinion on a lot. However, it does so with emotional calls to action that leave me feeling guilty if I don't change my ways, or stupid for ever not believing in what is being broadcast. Sometimes it just involves downright ignorant takes from the world's foremost leading "experts".
So what truly happened to my opinion was that I realized I have to disregard everything on social media. Stunning, I know.
But to high school and college millennials who know no better, the social media sphere is reality, it is the deciding vote on right and wrong. I mean look at how it is structured. When you see someone talking to you who is A) an adult, B) a verified account with thousands or even millions of followers, and C) a personal favorite of people you know, you perceive them as okay, as trustworthy.
I guess what this really leads to is I learned to disregard adults on a lot of issues -mainly political and opinion based - when they try to tell you what to do. Learning from people who know more than you is important, but never feel like you must do exactly what you are being told if it just simply doesn't work for you.
Like I said, there are simply some issues in the world that you cannot call anything but wrong. Cheating on a test, bullying in any form, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, all of these things are pretty universally frowned upon. So no, I am not trying to tell you that you should just ignore your parents and teachers.
That is called respect, more specifically respect for authority and respect for human life.
On the flip side, authority should not be used as a tool to make you feel like you are less in control of your own life than you are. The perception that adults know more than you was pretty well shattered in my experience working at Taco Bell sophomore year.
First of all, in all seriousness, could I actually say that I walked into working at a Taco Bell with an open mind. Is that really a serious question?
Before I even submitted an application, I was expecting this job to be filled with people who I would deem "incompetent" on my scale, whatever that really was outside of purely monetary and general job success.
And my perceptions were shattered by a number of people who worked there, who showed me it doesn't matter where you start out, if you are a genuine person and follow what makes you happy, you will find a happy life.
Some of these people I stay in contact with to this day. These were genuinely cool people, but because I listened to adult figures - along with doing a pretty good job of drawing assumptions myself - I was able to make fun of minimum wage workers, my co-workers, and draw assumptions that they would be "dumb" or "trashy".
This all funnels back to perception. There is no way I can understand what my co-workers have gone through, and there is no way I can understand some of the hardships they have faced in their lives.
But, in the same way I couldn't understand my co-workers struggles, there is no possible way adults can understand the stress on a millennial at this period in history.
Growing up watching college tuition sky rocket, presidents direct tweeting opposition, and generally being told how the world sucks on social media, what exactly are we supposed to look forward to.
And don't try to rebuttal this argument by saying, "well they don't need social media".
That would be like not having cable to watch your favorite show back in the day. The sense of FOMO has become an anxiety driving force that leads to some serious negative mental consequences, and not just a missed shared experience in life.
If you haven't noticed, some of this stuff is driving kids to death. I feel like I have said that before once or twice.
The devil you don't know is always worse than the devil you know. For kids, high school students, it's easy to let your imagination run wild about what people could say about you on social media, even if it doesn't always happen to be the case.
The world is an ever changing place, and it will surely find new ways to ruin the minds of young people in the future. It is important, as I have learned, to control your perception of your own life.
If you can't change it, change how you think about it. No, that's not an original quote from me. But it shows that if your feel bogged down by something that won't go away, you must simply step back, and understand why you feel so overwhelmed.
Challenge yourself to understand why you see something the way you do, and don't allow what you see to define what you do. Sometimes your eyes can deceive you.
As has been said many times before, you are your own worst enemy.
Sometimes its just authority figures trying to deal absolutes. In this world, there are no such things. Search for happiness, and others will be happy with you.
Laughter is infectious, and we could probably use a good outbreak of that twice daily instead of the measles. I think that's another thing that (almost) everyone has had enough of.