The people's voice of reason

Tears & Laughter: How to be Social Without the Social Media

The United States surgeon general has issued a report stating the negative effects social media platforms are having on mental health, especially in teens and young adults. The platforms generate feelings of loneliness and erode self-esteem.

Social media has proven to offer the opposite of what the name states, allowing users to isolate while constantly comparing themselves to others. This has been exacerbated further by the pandemic. There has been a rise in suicide attempts, depression, stress, and anxiety.

It is a problem made worse by a lack of access to quality care for mental health issues. It often takes years from the onset of symptoms before a child receives treatment.

The report expressed the immediate need for prevention programs, and the need for a better understanding of the impact technology and social media can have on young people.

Those of us who grew up before social media can remember what is was like to be social without an app. It was a different time. People would go out. And out could be anywhere.

I had the opportunity to be young in two places. I lived in Thomasville until I was 16, then lived in Clanton – where I graduated from high school – until I was 18.

In Thomasville, on Friday and Saturday nights the place to be social was the Hardee’s parking lot. The Hardee’s parking lot may not sound like a very exciting place, but at the time it was the most exciting place in Thomasville to young people.

Girl’s would dress up and fix their hair just to go sit in the Hardee’s parking lot. Guy’s would wash their trucks and put on fresh button-down collared shirts.

It wasn’t always Hardee’s. My parents lived in Thomasville when they were young too and they would pretty much do the same except they would gang up at the Dairy Queen.

Clanton was a little different, but most towns had similar routines. In Clanton, come the weekend, the thing to do socially was fit as many of your friends in your car or your mama’s car as you could, and then drive to the Pizza Hut. It was there on the main street through town. Everybody in town who could go, would. So many it was a traffic issue every weekend.

Nobody much went into the Pizza Hut to eat. We just circled it, driving slow, looking at who else was out driving around. We would wave at one

another. Not everybody waved, but most people waved. That was part of the socializing. Some people tried to act stuck-up, or mad, or sometimes somebody might be too drunk to recognize anybody to wave at, but for the most part people were friendly. That was the whole point.

What we would do then would be drive from the Pizza Hut up the street to Jack’s, and then we would drive around Jack’s, still looking and waving and hollering out the window at one another. Then we would drive back down to Pizza Hut. It was fun. We would do it for hours.

Sometimes there would be a swapping up of passengers from car to car. Most people knew a few back roads. Knew where the peach orchards were, and the gravel pit. Back then people liked to feel on one another. They didn’t have screens to touch. That was how a lot of families started. But mostly, kids just drove back and forth…being social. And then one day we had to grow up and be adults.

Before long young people today will probably learn they have to do the same. Life is much better living it than watching it from the sideline.


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