Perfectionism, Generation Z, and "Helpful" Technologies
When I was in elementary school, I tended to write with big round letters. I often couldn’t fit my writing into the spaces provided by teachers on worksheets. One day, while doing my homework, I was forced to turn a page sideways and write the rest of my sentence. My writing was just too big to fit everything I needed to say into the tiny space provided.
I was horrified.
I remember looking at my Mom and saying, “Mom, I had to write down the side of the page because my writing was too big!”. My Mom shrugged her shoulders and said, “That’s fine. It’s how you learn.”
If I have a moment where something is not perfect, I always stop and think of this moment. A kid who writes down the side of a page to get everything on their worksheet may not seem like a big deal, but it felt like a big deal to me. It felt like a big deal to me because, as a kid, I was a perfectionist.
Now, I identify as a recovering perfectionist. As an adult and a trained educator, I now know that perfectionism is the enemy of creation. The more perfect you try to be, the less creative you will be. This has been proven by science over and over again.
However, I see a frightening trend among the modern youth. There is a new obsession with perfectionism. An obsession that I definitely feel did not exist when I was young. I really believe this trend stems from constant, obsessive use of smartphones and social media. The students I have now have spent most of their lives glued to a screen that tells them, through external validation, whether they are “good enough”. This has forced them to seek it in every aspect of their lives.
I recently decided to take another break from social media and get away from using my phone constantly. I have definite issues with social media (I’ve written about it extensively before), but a lot of this new thinking comes after reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.
I still struggle with what to do with social media. It brings me readership and exposes people to my career building work but, I have noticed something really powerful over the last year.
I took a 30-day break from Facebook in January of 2019. I have tried to stay away from it since and I have totally destroyed my algorithm. (That was the intention.) I used to get thirty or so likes on everything I posted. Now, I’m lucky if I get 5-10. I loosened my rules around social media around April and didn’t think too much about it.
Then around a two weeks ago I noticed something really unsettling.
I was anxious, agitated, grumpy, and experiencing long bouts of insomnia. Things that had not been an issue since the fall of 2018.
The only thing that correlated with all of this, was that I had allowed my social media use to become compulsive once again. It aligned with all of the research and reading I have done on the subject. A section of Digital Minimalism caught my eye a few days ago. Newport mentions that a counselor at a university reported a huge spike in anxiety among her student population. It correlates with widespread smartphone use.
Before that, she reported that anxiety was relatively rare amongst her students.
So, my hunch is correct.
I have decided that I will refrain from traditional social media activities for the next thirty days. I’m still trying to figure out how I can factor this into my teaching and career building.
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