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Has Technology Increased Teen Loneliness?

Marion Charatan

Posted on July 20, 2019 15:34

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If you put everything out there on social media, you pay the piper. Documentary filmmaker Liz Mandelup examines the effects on teenagers in "Jawline."

You’ve heard the adage "Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame." Maybe not everyone: there  is a price to pay for notoriety. Celebrities will tell you that fame and having a lot of money doesn’t necessarily translate to happiness.

Take Cardi B, the 26-year-old former stripper who quickly rose to success as a rapper. She stated in People magazine, “I feel like I was a little bit happier two or three years ago when I had less money. I had less people who had opinions about my life. I felt like my life was mine. Now I feel like I don’t even own my life. I feel like the world owns me.”

Another way the world can own you is through posting every aspect of your life on social media. There has been a huge increase in teen bullying because young people expose so much on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the like.

A new documentary "Jawline" looks at the effects using social media has on teenagers. The documentary, written and directed by Liza Mandelup, was recognized at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

The filmmaker highlighted YouNow, a platform for Generation Z to stream and share their thoughts in monologues for others to view.

“I felt confident I would connect with teenagers because I remember being a teenager myself and wishing someone cared enough to ask me how I was doing. I understood that the teenage years are a time of loneliness and yearning to be heard by someone," Mandelup observed.

The key figure in the film is Austyn Tester, a formerly shy 16-year-old who acts as a kind of motivational speaker. Mandelup thought he had the energy to keep going and going and said that he was the same on and off camera.

Enter 19-year-old Michael Weist. Michael is a talent agent to teen clients. He is wealthy and has an attitude that parallels older jaded suits in the entertainment world. Weist believes his clients relate well to him because he's in their age group.

The filmmaker felt that at least Weist was honest with the young people he represents: he’s out to make money and can also interact with adults he deals with.

What does Mandelup think comes out of this avalanche of teens showcasing on social media? She said people can find acceptance in virtual reality they can't find in the "real world." However, there is a down side to this. “At the same time, I think resorting to just an online community for happiness can create more loneliness. It’s a lot of time inside, alone in front of a computer or on your phone, not engaging with what’s in front of you."

Mandelup believes teens are vulnerable, and I could not agree more. Many of us adults don’t even interact face to face anymore. We text, Facebook, or IM, etc. The days aren’t far off when a robot or virtual assistant might be your best friend. Shades of Sophia and Alexa!

Marion Charatan

Posted on July 20, 2019 15:34

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