A young, talented and very popular high school quarterback said to me one time; “How can I get to a point where I’m not so alone?”
Is the most connected generation also its loneliest? It is ironic at best and frantic at worst that history’s most technologically “available” generation feels intensely isolated and left out.
For many years of my life I spent many hours working with young people. I have travelled and spoken to thousands of high school and college students in schools, camps and conferences throughout Canada, the U.S. and abroad so I bring a little perspective to this and other related issues.
A recent phenomenon is occurring where much time is invested by young and old alike in online ‘social networking’. This trend in fact may actually create an anti-social reality for some. Let me explain. Beautiful images of their friends online, are killing teens’ acceptance of ordinary life—and of themselves. Yes, the online “perfection” is crafted, but in their formative years when teens crave fitting in, they compare themselves to their Facebook “friends” and frequently despair.
The price of instant real-time access is our growing inability to relate to real people at a human level. Computer and mobile networking is fast and near-infinite. For those of us who are ‘digital immigrants’ this new access to old friends is pretty mind blowing. But for many of us real-life relationship building may soon become a dinosaur.
I don’t want this to come across as an anti-tech rant because honestly some of the new gadgets and tools coming onto the scene today are truly amazing and I’m trying to engage myself in some of these technologies as best I can. I just want to urge teens in particular to use technology for what it can do—and to know what it can undo.
In a soon to be published book about youth culture entitled ‘Alone’ author Andy Braner points to some startling facts:
- One in five teens battle depression.
- Of teens fighting depression, 30 percent will fight substance abuse.
- Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people age 15 to 24.
So in the face of these sobering stats, can a community like ours offer clear hope for real connection? I really think it’s possible.
For all the causes of isolation; fears of rejection, battles with addiction or just plain lack of connection, we as unique individuals, we’re created to complement each other in community.
I believe God gave you a purpose, a reason and even specific tools for you to partner with Him in this world to change it in the ways He intended. When you realize what role you have to play here on the planet, the most beautiful sense of belonging begins to awaken inside your soul. The world begins making a little more sense.
If you’re a young person who truly wants relief from the isolation you feel from day to day, be open to the opportunity a community provides. For adults who care about kids and teens take time to encourage young people in their gifts and by doing so you create trust. Trust begets trust, and soon the people you’re encouraging give the same gift back to you.
It is possible to find connection in this lonely world we just need to make the extra effort to find a way to invite others and include others into our collective narrative. For those who may feel alone and disconnected from our community otherwise, bridging this gap may boldly offer new hope for real connection.
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