I am officially pledging here an now to try to avoid lecturing and unsolicited advice as I raise you, but as your mother, I think there are times when it's appropriate, and possibly even my right, to share some thoughts with you.
All throughout history, parents have been concerned for the up and coming generation. They see their honored values fading and frightening new ones emerging. In the 50's the fear was rock and roll, in the 70's it was the hippie movement, in the 90's it was the Simpson's, and so on. And somehow each generation has found ways to keep moving forward and to not blow up the world. If the 70's didn't do it, then I have great hope for the future.
Someday you'll roll your eyes when you hear me talk of the days before the internet or how I grew up with just one phone in the house, that had a rotary dial nonetheless. But believe you me, it will be strange to you when you're in my shoes and you see the cool things from your generation become eye-roll worthy to your children. Like the word "cool," in my case.
So, my concern with some of the problems I foresee in your generation is nothing new. But as someone who is transitioning from the up and coming generation to the "has been" generation, I think I can say a thing or two about the major shift that was completely unprecedented even just 5 years ago.
Within the last decade, the use of social media hasn't just exploded, it has become a staple of many people's lives, like reading the newspaper used to be. Anonymity has become a ghost of the past as many people live their lives on a constant virtual stage for the world to see. Ten years ago, if a girl wore a cute outfit she might receive a few compliments from her friends, but now, within just a few minutes of being posted online, it can be viewed and receive dozens or even hundreds of "likes." But you know this already, because these things have been a part of your life since you were born.
I haven't stayed immune to all of this. The virtual stage has become as much a part of my life as it has for the next person. But this constant visibility has done dangerous things. It has evolved us into people who thrive on the praise and attention of others. Compliments and encouragement can be helpful and encouraging at times, but can become dangerous when taken in too high of doses. Our actions become driven by success measured in "likes," "followers," and comments.
I've fallen victim to this myself at times. I recently completed a project that received a large amount of positive feedback and praise. As I felt my head starting to inflate, I found myself having to stop and put myself in check. I said a silent prayer, asking Heavenly Father to not let the success I was experiencing go to my head, making me forget that He was the true author of my success.
Do not fear failure. If you're going to fear anything, fear too much success. Success is a fickle and fleeting teacher. With too much success in the eyes of our peers, we can lose our bearings and forget what should be our true motivator- to do what's kind, to do what's honest. Every cool, new thing has a lifespan- and it's usually a short one. Case in point: MC Hammer, pogo sticks, backwards jeans.
Do not fear anonymity. I heard once that we've created a generation of children who believe they are simply celebrities in waiting- that someday they will have their day in the spotlight when everyone knows their name. What a life of disappointment most of them will face when they live their lives missing the beauty that's right in front of them. Life does not have to be Instagrammed for it be beautiful.
That being said however, do not fear vulnerability. I think our generation has forgotten what the true meaning of vulnerability is. It's not Facebooking what you had for breakfast or Tweeting the color of your ear wax. Vulnerability is pulling yourself and the talents God gave you out of hiding for others to see and at times criticize. It's the queasiness you feel at the starting line of a marathon when the other runners looking half your age and twice your speed. It's opening up your broken heart when it's likely to be rejected. It's learning to play the guitar when you feel like God gave you nothing but thumbs. It's dancing in public when you have two left feet. Learn to embrace this as part of a part of a meaningfully lived life.
But God made you strong and He made you smart. I have no doubt you'll figure it out better than I'm trying, and often failing to do. And like I said, if the 70's didn't do us all in, then I'm sure you're going to be just fine.