Sunday 25 September 2011

Self belief in the modern age

The problem with the internet (yes, I am capable of acknowledging there is one) is it creates insecurity.

Think about it. We've got a generation of young people growing up in this country who think failure is no Likes on their Facebook posting. No comments on their Flickr, no Likes on their Instagram. Nothing but silence as they tweet their latest blog post which they poured their heart and soul into.

The web brings people together. But it also separates them. It is easy to hit a Like button but it is easier to not bother at all. It is even easier to simply lose a voice in the sheer volume of noise, through nothing more than not noticing their voice is no longer there.

Which is worse? Unintentionally losing someone's voice from a conversation and never noticing, or intentionally being removed from a conversation and be left wondering why you were not good enough, what you didn't contribute, what wasn't good enough.

The language used here is telling. It is easy to think you are not good enough because people have stopped commenting. It is easy to think your words are nothing but failure because no one is reading them any more. It is easy to think no one cares in the silence. And for a lot of people the silence reciprocates and there are no more tweets and no more blog posts and no more sharing.

If we raise a generation to think that if someone else is too busy to read or comment that somehow they are a failure then we have a problem. Because we are all time strapped. We are all trying to juggle balls, even if we don't have children (and the assumption I somehow have more time to choose to do what I want with as I have no children frustrates me immensely - when I have time empty, I fill it, with fun things I like to do, just like you chose to fill yours with a child's laughter) and some of us sometimes have time to comment and discuss and feedback but it's not guaranteed. Not always guaranteed.

Self belief is the same as it always was and it hasn't changed for the digital generation. Self belief cannot rely on anyone else, it must come from inside. And increasingly I am realising that self belief is not to be found in a computer screen at all. It is to be found on a bicycle. It is to be found in a team discussion, contributing passionately and voraciously and standing ground and learning to be right instead of always assuming being wrong. It is in getting feedback from someone face to face and understanding time is precious and is still being given. It is in choosing to deal with a situation in a way which is risky but necessary and acknowledging that life does not always come in pre-packaged shrink wrapped boxes with clear instructions attached.

Growing up is hard. It always was hard. I think that right now, the hardest thing for the under 25's around us is learning what the web is good for and what the web is not good for. The web is good for creating content. But feedback on that content is still more valuable offline.

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