I was born in 1977, which makes me a Gen X-er. I’m proud to be a Gen X-er. We learned the power of working hard, thinking outside the box, and being proactive in our lives. We exercised competition, free thinking, and the American way of free enterprise. In fact, when I was seven, I walked door-to-door in my neighborhood selling hand drawn pictures and colored pages from my favorite coloring books. I came home with more than $40 bucks, something that shocked my mother. In middle school, I bought boxes of Blow Pops from Sam’s and brought them to school to sell for $0.25 a piece. I would pocket about $50 a week, until I got called to the principal’s office for interfering with the vending machines’ making money. (I’m serious)
I guess part of my competitive, entrepreneurial spirit was a result of growing up in the 80s. We didn’t have the internet, so if it wasn’t in the store, you weren’t getting it. I remember my first Cabbage Patch Doll was the last in the store (after we ran from the entrance to the back to grab one). It was a little boy with dark, curly hair and I put a barrette in that doll’s hair and made it a little girl (until I was made fun of and I tossed that thing in the corner so fast…)
In light of the world I’m living in, I wondered what happened to kill that entrepreneurial spirit in society; where did the desire to work hard for and earn your place in life go? I watched videos of kids claiming status as sovereign citizens and I was awestruck. The level of disrespect for the law, for the lives of those who died in war to give them the freedom to even make that choice, disgusts me. Then there are kids shooting up schools, the most recent and newsworthy being in my home state at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I can’t even wrap my brain around anyone thinking they have the right to take another’s life, especially in a school, especially as a child.
As an author, I talk to kids–mostly in grades K-12–about their part in bullying, with my focus on treating others with the Golden Rule as a compass and that their words have power to build worlds or destroy people. I teach accountability, because it is the only thing we have control over in our lives. These simple ideas would eliminate bullying completely if everyone followed them.
The truth is the upcoming generation has a fatal flaw: ENTITLEMENT.
Growing up in a society which promotes self through social media, participation awards, and celebrations of every single milestone, even if none exists, has created a society of young adults that expect. In a sense, it happened in my generation too. Gen X-ers lived with the sitcom society of “happily ever after” by the end of the 1/2 hour segment, told we could be anything we wanted, and we believed it…we expected that one day we would gain fame, fortune, and our own happily ever after. This new generation has just drank more of the Kool-Aid. And you can’t necessarily blame them, with YouTubers playing video games or goofing off to the tune of millions of fans and just as many dollars.
But someone needs to pay. Accountability is gone.
Social Media is a wonderful tool, but it steals accountability. It’s easy to unfriend and unfollow. It’s much harder to listen with respect. Identity is personal and should never be found in opinions, likes, or follows of others, yet too many are so wrapped up in the numbers they disregard the person. Watch people in a restaurant or waiting for a bus. We aren’t accountable to each other because we don’t even interact with each other. It’s identity theft when you allow social media followers to determine your worth, dictate how you spend your time, and decide your value. Social Media is a tool, not a place to find validation.
I am in the process of altering my life from being just a writer / speaker into becoming a licensed real estate agent to assist my husband. I won’t lie: it’s been torture. Who am I if I stop being a writer? What happens when I slow or stop posting on social media? I realized the truth was none of that defined me, yet I allowed it to shape my own thoughts about myself. I gave my identity away to followers of forums I had no faith in. The world of social media had become so predominant in my existence that I didn’t know who I was without it. And my identity as an author had become so encompassing that I felt empty inside without it.
What changed? My accountability.
I am accountable for giving away my life to social media and allowing identity theft to take place. I am not a result of likes and shares, but what I do might result in them if done for the right reasons. Today, my identity is found in myself and who I am is not what I do. Will I still use social media? Absolutely! I just won’t let it use me anymore.
Jaimie Engle writes dark thrillers where magic turns ordinary into extraordinary. She loves weaving lore into her books and creating the Stories that Shape You through JME Books. Fun facts: Jaimie danced at the Aloha Bowl halftime show & played an alien on TV. Learn more at ABOUT.