Teenagers. We are the partying, eye-rolling, texting lunatics who just want thrills and a good time. We’re whiny, self-obsessed, and appallingly impulsive. Right? Well, not exactly. Some of us do match the classic youngster archetype, but there are so many–I may even go so far as to say the majority–who don’t. It gets tiresome to be compared to an outdated, cookie-cutter stereotype. When I say cookie cutter, I’m referring to these misconceptions:
- All teenagers want to do is party. Hopping from house to house, coming home only to shower and change clothes, hooking up, getting wasted, wearing lampshades on our heads. There are those who do this, but far more common, in my experience, is the snack-eating, pajama-wearing recluse. We joke about “not going outside” and “having no life.” I’m constantly hearing people talk about spending hours marathoning shows on Netflix, wasting time on Tumblr, or how much they just want to go back to bed and sleep in. Hell, I even own a shirt that says, “I like to party, and by party, I mean take naps.”
- Teenagers can’t communicate without emojis. This misconception is assuming that we’re unable to separate our personal lives from our academic and professional endeavors. Writing is just like speaking in that we can adjust our general method and attitude based on the appropriate situation. It would be inappropriate to act the same way during a job interview as one would with a group of friends, just as it would be inappropriate to add slang to a formal essay. Emojis aren’t lazy. In a world where so much is miscommunicated over the internet, emojis can help mimic actual facial expressions and body language.
- Teenagers can’t spell anything out. This goes along with my previous point. Many people seem to believe that we just talk to each other in acronyms. Nowadays, most smartphones actually come with autocorrect and predictive technology, so excessive “lingo” is not required. I’ve read articles trying to explain text abbreviations to adults, and half of them are things that I’ve never seen used. NAGI–not a good idea? SWAK–sealed with a kiss? Even with acronyms that are actually used, they’re usually used mostly on Twitter (with the 140 character limit) or pretty sparingly. Also, some people use them ironically.
- Teenagers would rather text than actually hang out. You know the stereotypical image of the teenagers sitting next to each other on the couch, texting rather than actually turning their heads? That’s very inaccurate, if you ask me. Some of us text a lot because we simply can’t get together and hang out. It’s how we connect when we’re away from each other. Sure, there are a few times when I would rather text or message, simply because I’m a human being who has to eat, sleep, complete work, and do some blogging. Also, I think online communication can be immeasurably helpful. Back in eighth grade, I was dealing with a lot of social anxiety. While it was still nerve-wracking, texting and messaging helped ease me into the world of interaction. When I finally attended social events, I’d established a bit of a previous relationship with people, which made it a lot easier to be calm. But most of the time, I think it’s safe to say that most of my peers would rather connect face-to-face.
- All teenagers are impulsive, reckless thrill-seekers. This has less to do about teenagers than it does about differences in personality. Videos and informational media would have you think that youth have very little judgement. Of course, there’s something to be said for the true science of it–a teenage brain is not an adult brain; plenty of development has yet to occur in the frontal lobe, and there’s other neuropsychological science that would take another full blog post to explain. Nevertheless, there are differences among us with still-developing brains, just as there are differences among adults. Some teenagers are very thoughtful, and are not drawn to binge-drinking vodka mixed with caffeine powder. Binge-watching Netflix is a different story (see point number 1). We have the ability to think critically and evaluate our decisions. To assume that we don’t is to imply that we’re not responsible for our own actions.
- Teenagers are whiny kids who need to quiet down about their problems. This one irks me. Problems are problems. Sure, some of us are prone to exaggeration–but aren’t we all? Aren’t we all a little melodramatic sometimes? Melodrama stems from real pain. What pains one person may not pain another. What is a struggle for one seems easy for somebody else. Accusing a teenager–or anyone, for that matter–of just being whiny is a pretty insensitive thing to do. Nobody should quiet down about their problems. Talking about pain and struggle, no matter how insignificant it may appear, is healthy. It’s also a bad idea to immediately assume that a teenager’s problem is “just drama.” Social drama is a part of some of our lives, but pain extends beyond that. And it must be noted that over 1 in 5 young people (ages 9 to 17) lives with some sort of mental illness. Take us seriously.
- Teenagers are hopeless. Of course, nobody would outright say this, but I hear it implied all the time. “This generation is doomed. Are these the people who will be taking care of us when we’re old? What has life come to?” All of my previous points feed into this. Stereotypes and generalizations that paint teenagers in a bad light certainly do make the future seem bleak. That’s why we need to recognize the truth about young people. That’s why we need to choose to have faith in future generations. We’re not lost.
*I’ve written this post from my own perspective using my own observations, conclusions, and personal experiences. I can’t speak for every teenager. I’m blessed to live in a moderately safe area with a loving and pretty well-off environment. I’ve been raised up in a wonderful public education system and an academically and musically-centered family. I’m naturally a frugal and easygoing type of person, and I don’t have an enormous social circle to base things off of. All of these factors affect how I see the world; therefore, this post has been written through my own lens. While I do my best to examine things externally and objectively, it can’t be denied that I’m still a human being who’s heavily influenced by personal experience.