Youths and Social Media – Part I
We are now in the digital age! We must accept this reality. God is doing a new thing in our times and days. He is placing a new tool in our hands which is meant to be used for the transformation of our terrestrial domain to reflect his celestial culture. The digital world did not exist a generation ago, and now it is a fundamental fact of life.
Albert Mohlar has rightly observes that real communication is happening in the digital world, on the web, and on the Smart phones in our pockets. Statistics now shows that there are 5.9 billion cellular subscribers, which is 87 percent of the world’s population. It is a fact now that real information is being shared and globally disseminated faster than ever before. Real conversations are taking place through voice and words and images, connecting people and conversations all over the world. The digital world is the real platform of information sharing and conversation. Just anything can be found on the internet, usually within a couple of mouse click. This includes everything from preaching to pornography, with research, politics and entertainment added to the mix.
The digital kingdom is massive and transformative. Older media are migrating to the web, even as social media increasingly supplants voice technologies. The world’s conversation is shifting fast toward social media, and this is now true for a specific range of generation – the young adults. As with the digital world as a whole, there are dangers and traps associated with the usage of social media platforms. Social media can be used for good or evil. It can connect people and it can disconnect them. But the reality is, with the current trend, Social media will soon dominate all other forms of digital communication. That is why it becomes necessary to keep young folks informed on how to engage these platforms purposefully and with utmost godly wisdom.
Now, we must admit that there are many potential dangers with social networking sites and young people that use them as much as there are tremendous benefits they offer. Although the features of social networking sites differ, they all allow you to provide information about yourself and offer some type of communication mechanism (forums, chat rooms, email, instant messengers) that enables you to connect with other users. On some sites, you can browse for people based on certain criteria, while other sites require that you be ‘introduced’ to new people through a connection you share. Many of the sites have communities or subgroups that may be based on a particular interest. All these basic features of social media networks make them attractive to young people. This is so because the inherent nature or characteristics of young people will obviously grant an easy pull towards making a maximum exploration of this new adventure. So, there is need to consider and understand these characteristic of young people to be able to appreciate why they account for the heavy users of social media.
PECULIAR ATTRIBUTES OF YOUTH
Who is a youth? This is a very complex but crucial question that may not be easy to answer. The general dictionary definitions of youth suggest something like a time of life when one is young, but often means the time between childhood and adulthood. Other defines it as “the appearance, freshness, vigor, spirit, etc, characteristic of one who is young.” Actually, the simplest description of youth would have been people defined by their age. But definitions of youth as an age range vary across the world, as youth is not defined chronologically as a stage that can be tied to specific age range.
In some countries of the world, talk of youth would usually mean 13-19 year old, possibly up to 25 year old. In other contexts, the age range might be children and young people of 0-18, or sometimes even children would refer to 0-18, and youth would mean 18-30. Even the United Nation, while recognizing that member states use different chronologies to define youth, defines youth as persons between the ages of 15 and 24 with all UN statistics based on this definition. The UN also recognizes that a useful distinction can be made between teenagers (i.e. those between the ages of 13 and 19) and young adults (those between the ages of 20 and 24). Even with this, while seeking to impose some uniformity on statistical approaches, the UN itself is aware of contradictions between approaches in its own statutes. Hence, according to Furlong, under the 15-24 definition (Introduced in 1981) children are defined as those under the age of 14 while under the 1979 Convention on the rights of the child, those under the age of 18 are regarded as children. In Nigeria for instance, youth includes all members of the Federal Republic of Nigeria aged 18-35.
If we attempt to define youth using the age stratification, then we can understand who a youth is vis-a-viz parameters like general, physical, social, emotional, mental characteristics together with their various developmental tasks.
With the complexity in defining youth using age factor, it seems safer to define youth as a social position that reflects the meanings different cultures and societies give to individuals between childhood and adulthood. According to Tyyska, “scholars have argue that age-based definitions have not been consistent across cultures or times and that thus it is more accurate to focus on social processes in the transition to adult independence for defining youth.” By implication, it means that youth is a time of life when one is young but often means the time between childhood and adulthood. It then means that on a general spectrum, youth is best understood as a period of transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood’s independence and awareness of our interdependence as members of a community. This implies youth is a more fluid category than a fixed age group. It is a stage of constructing the self-concept in one’s life. This self-concept is influenced by several variables such as peers, lifestyle, gender, and culture.
All the above simply suggest that there is an increasing challenge of how to reach the generation of young people such that they will be properly integrated into the society and find great relevance. The simple reason is because they are growing up in a different culture entirely. Both the godly church traditions and relevant family values are coming under serious threat because of the current wild exposures of this category of people to a phenomenon like the digital world.
The rapid changes we are witnessing today in the lives of young people is nothing but a direct result of technological breakthroughs and various innovations we are experiencing and this is widening the gap between the young generation and adult community. This necessitates the need to understand the youth vis-à-vis their world view and psychological perception of their environment. Unless we enter their shoes we may likely not understand how they feel and we may misinterpret their actions and reactions which will negatively affect how adult community will manage them and maximize their potentials.
In this section, we will focus on understanding the peculiar nature of young people. We will also look at their response to social media phenomenon and the cautions they must maintain in order to maximize this new platform. Almost all the young people are similar in behaviors and pursuit. Basically, young people have the following as their common traits:
- Youth are energetic. In other words, they are lively generation.
This is confirmed by King Solomon when he said long time ago that, “The glory of the young ones is their strength, but the pride of old people is their gray hair.” This strength manifests physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and sexually. Unless there is somebody to guide them appropriately, some will invest this strength in sexual immoralities while others will utilize theirs in becoming a street gangster. The reason for several misdemeanors among the youths is simply because of the unguided utilization of youthful strength. This goes to show why young people are always unsettled because they want to utilize this strength by all means. That is why a youth may spend hours behind a computer browsing the internet and may not get tire. This is not possible for an adult without paying the price.
- Youths are inquisitive. They are a searching generation.
They want answer for everything. They seek to understand themselves, the world they live in and particularly their role therein. That is why they reject every attempt to be treated as robot, question everyone and everything that comes their way. This is because they are at a stage of life in which they need to make choices which will affect their future.
- Youths are adventurous. They are courageous generation.
They are always interested in trying new things. They are never satisfied with yesterday’s report. They believe that each day comes with new challenge and they love to be the first partaker of it. Every young adult is a potential risk taker. In agreement with this concept, Robert Kennedy affirms, “This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.”
- Youths are self-confident: They are optimistic generation.
They believe in their abilities to do all things by themselves. They only believe in you as long as you have interest in what is there passion. This makes them to appear boastful and abusive to adult sometimes.
- Youths love freedom: They are unbridled generation.
Most young ones don’t love interference. They cherish freedom and rebel out rightly with whatever or whoever wants to cage them. Even within the church they desire freedom and where this is not made possible they look elsewhere.
 “Youth”. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 12-2-2015.
 “Youth.” Dictionary.com. retrieved 12-2-2015
 Furlong, Andy (2013). Youth Studies: An Introduction. USA: Routledge. pp.2-3
 Nigeria 2009 National Youth Policy
 Tyyska, Vappu (2005). “Conceptualizing and Theorizing Youth: Global Perspectives.” Contemporary Youth Research: Local Expressions and Global Connections. London: Ashgate Books. P.3
 “Day of Affirmation, University of Cape Town, South Africa. June 6, 1996, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial. Retrieved 11/9/07