April 11, 2024 opinion

Teens don’t owe you opinions

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Sanjana Senthil in Texas, United States

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November 14, 2023. Panel Discussion with 2023 Youth Activist Summit Laureates. Panel guest, young activist Nisreen Elsaim, discusses peace building and reconciliation.

Picture by: United States Mission Geneva | Flickr

Women’s rights. Date night! War in the Middle East. Climate action. Cute dog video! Video of beaten dogs in Thailand. Buy our soap!

There is only one place where any of these things have anything in common, whether that be in importance or relevance: social media.

With growing entrepreneurialism and interest in self-promotion, many people have recognized the unique position of marketing on social media and have sought out that place to promote their businesses, movements, passions, or relationships.

As a teenager myself, I am oddly protective of social media. When adults or professionals attack social media for its destructiveness and distraction, I (and many other teens) find it easy to brush off their comments as overly cautious.

On these platforms, I have found humour, passion, people like me, and other beneficial resources. It is true, however, that I have also found horrible crises, calls to action, misinformation, and competition for the most public attention. And a strange thing is happening as a result of this.

Teens and young people are beginning to shut down in the face of this influx of opinions and people asking for ours. Call it apathy, call it laziness, but address it as the problem it is: teens are being overloaded with choices on social media.

Suddenly, we are being asked by hundreds of adults what they feel about a vast array of issues that the adults in charge – politicians, activists, government officials – have spent decades trying to resolve.

It’s not that we don’t care, or that we don’t want to do anything. A study at Tufts University in the US found that more students are taking their social media activism to the streets in protest, with 51% having participated in offline activism.

As a generation, we are more effective and more motivated than most before us.

But the point is that all of that work is voluntary. The protesting, the student organisations, the writing, and anything else is not because of the overload of choices and calls for action from adults—it’s in spite of this. Even in the face of adults attempting to skew the opinions of teens/young people before they are even 18, some young people can still find it in themselves to care.

To me, the secret to that is deciding what you really aren’t able to help with. If we were to attempt to give each social justice movement and every small business attention, we would be immobilised in indecision.

The goal is to get young people to craft their own opinions and choose for themselves.

Adults try to scare us with wild statistics, government failure after failure and always leave us with the question of “what are you going to do for us?”

The leaving generation should strive to leave the socioeconomic scene better than they found it so that issues of climate change, international strife, war, women’s rights, famine, and hunger, are given the proper weight and importance by the entering generation.

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Sanjana Senthil

Contributor

Texas, United States

An eleventh grader from Texas, Sanjana is an avid writer, predominantly on the topics of current affairs and introspection. She focuses on fiction, but occasionally writes essays, op-eds, and more.

She is the founder of Kathai, a teen literary organization focused on bringing the publishing world to teens in a fun way. Her favorite movies are Dead Poets Society, Ladybird, and Amelie. She also loves music, particularly Taylor Swift, Clairo, and Sufjan Stevens.

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Jefferson He

Editor-in-chief

London, United Kingdom

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