The Dichotomy of Anonymity
I've mentioned several times before, when our Pure Truth team visits area schools, we give the students a venue to express their thoughts, ask questions, even just make a statement, in a safe way, by turning in anonymous note cards, at the end of each class session. Over the past six years that I have been the coordinator for our program, this element of our time with the students has always proven the favorite. Even though, more recently, it does seem that a tide is turning and more students seem more apt to simply state, ask, give what they are wanting to say, in front of their peers, it still meets a need for those who enjoy the object of anonymity.
I know that is why, when I heard of the latest social media outlet, not only FOR teens, but created BY teens, I was interested in exploring whether this was going to end up being like many of the other social media outlets: incredibly helpful in connecting people, yet astonishingly hurtful, if used in unhealthy ways.
The Trill Project began in January of this year, as a way to implement a healthy and safe environment they had witnessed through a Peer Support Group at their high school. They describe their "Project-turned-social-media-outlet" as:
"...an anonymous social network that allows users to
safely express themselves in a supportive environment,
while building tight knit communities.
Our users are confident in their security and
benefit from hearing people around the globe
share and relate to their honest thoughts."
At first glance, all kinds of red flares went off in my head. I have worked with teens for over 20 years and have seen what the evolution of online resources has brought to the ever-changing table of a child, trying to stay afloat in the torrent of the teenage years. I'll go to bat, any day, for social media, the internet, and smart phones, as I do believe staying current in our day is important, but being wise, in our day, will always supersede. When I read that an online resource for teens is anonymous, with the tag line, "What would you tell if nobody knew you were telling it?", I shuddered at the thought. Our Pure Truth team aids in helping to undo what a lot of sites have been instrumental in doing, such as Sarahah, widely known for its use of brutal criticism, even being blamed for suicidal thoughts and behavior.
But, through some further research, on their website, I found what appears to be some pure motives taking place. Instead of simply riding the bandwagon of complaint, they went into action to fight the tide of bullying, cyberbullying, and intolerance. They saw the need for their peers to have a place to express themselves, void of judgement.
Isn't that what we, as adults, want, as well?
A community of people, regardless of differences, accepting and respecting each other?
But, amid the purity of creating change, I believe there are still a few truths we need to continue to communicate to our teens:
You can't stay anonymous. Yes, it's a safe way to get information and express thought, without divulging secrets, but there comes a day when you will have to come out of hiding and face reality. You were given a name and a face, for a reason.
Healthy thoughts require healthy feedback. The majority of our society thrives on verbalizing every thought, being offended if it meets opposition. Thoughts that are going to make a positive change must be filtered through positive dialogue.
There will always be rule-breakers. As Debby Downer as that sounds, the truth remains that we have rules and laws, but there are those who believe rules and laws should be broken. As protected an environment as these social media platforms desire to be, there is always the risk of painful and detrimental behavior taking place within.
Once again, as parents, we are given the choice with the information we have before us. Generation Z is not going to wait for us to get our heads out of the sand, ignoring what is going on around us. Use this new social media outlet as a good conversation starter.
Do you have questions or concerns about your teen? We would love to help.
Text us: 817-835-9898.