27 Jan Entitlement, Quick Fixes, and Narcissism: Social Media Impact on Youth Athletes
“Just go on TikTok…you’ll go VIRAL.”
I was told this by a young college girl, who I got into a conversation with while I was out in downtown Tampa for a holiday gathering. My friend and I happened to get into a conversation about entrepreneurship with two girls in their ealry 20s. They couldn’t believe how many followers I had on Instagram. In fact, they were floored one of my reels got 1 million views.
“OMG THAT IS SO AMAZING!” one screamed.
I shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t find it exciting. I could care less. Whether I get 1 million views, or 10 views, it doesn’t matter to me. But to the younger generation, a million views on a post is like winning the lottery.
“Yeah, you DEFINITELY need to go on TikTok,” the other chimed in.
My response: “ABSOLUTELY NOT.”
And I stand by this today. This conversation happened a few years ago, and I still don’t have a TikTok for my business.
I’m still alive. And the world is still spinning.
Social Media’s Benefits
I don’t want this post to poo-poo all over social media. I’ve been in the online space for over ten years, and it has had its benefits. Life has improved for the most part.
For starters, there’s a library of information at your fingertips. One minute, you type on Google search how to bake vegan banana bread from scratch, while another minute, you can watch on YouTube how to dead lift without blowing your back out.
You can watch a 30 second reel on french braiding hair designs, or a 5 second reel of cute puppies playing. You can Snapchat your friend from the Eiffel Tower. You can swipe right and meet your husband.
You can choose to learn deeply about something through long form content with podcasts and YouTube videos, or you can choose to be entertained with quick soundbites through Instagram reels and TikTok videos.
The majority of education I’ve received in my professional career has come from the online space – from virtual presentations and workshops, to online conferences and webinars. My continuing education has become more time and cost efficient. All thanks to the internet.
I’ve connected with the best mentors who have taught me everything I know about performance training. I’ve also stood on the shoulders of giants, and I’m incredibly grateful. It would’ve been hard for me to connect with such a large number of leaders in my industry if it weren’t for social media.
Social media has its benefits for education, connection, and community.
Social Media for Adults vs. Kids
I’m a grown adult, so it makes it easier for me to use social media to my advantage without getting sucked into the nonsense and distractions.
I’m around teenagers enough on a daily basis to know they get sucked into the abyss of content.
It’s easy for me to say no to mindless scrolling because my brain developed during a time with no internet.
I was never blasted with an overload of information during my most plastic years of mental and social development. I knew how to stare into space and look at the clouds. I knew how to sit in silence. I knew how to not yearn for constant stimulation. I knew how to look up at my bedroom ceiling, zone out, and relax. I knew how to be okay just sitting with myself.
Most kids nowadays don’t.
Endless information is good when you know how to use it. It’s not good when you lack discernment. It’s not good when you waste away your day. It’s terrible when you wake up and realize you’ve been scrolling for two hours. It’s the worst because the majority of what you consume is fabricated.
Anything on the internet can be spliced, edited, and photo-shopped. Anything can be skewed to fit a narrative, or sell a product and service. Anything can be presented in a way that looks opulent, like someone is living their best life, when they’re not. Anyone can say they have a medical degree and give medical advice online. The physical therapy world is the worst with this, as many online influencers fake having PT degrees, and still consult online clients for $250 an hour. Indeed, we live in scary times.
For adults, they can sift through the chaos a bit better, and arrive at the truth, but we still are susceptible to the deceptions of social media.
So how does that leave a kid who has not yet developed their prefrontal cortex?
Kids are being conditioned to consume something from its outside appearance, taking a post as truth, and ignoring the depth of the content. Short form content is a way to stay stimulated and occupied, and add no enrichment to one’s life. Moreover, short form content is shared with the snap of a finger, and no one deeply researches all corners of the story.
More often than not, kids share because their peers share. If something is trending, they’ll re-post without looking into the matter. It’s modern peer pressure. What issue is popular this hour will be everywhere for a day, then tomorrow it will be gone. Poof! Alas, it’s the 24 hour news cycle getting the best of everyone’s attention. It’s manipulative. It slips into everyone’s lives, and takes the focus off of what really matters.
You’re told by the algorithm what to be enraged or excited about on any given day. You’re told what to think. Your mind is hijacked. I don’t know about you, but this is downright exhausting.
Too much information can be bad information, and when it’s constantly being fed to you, critical thought, problem solving, and creativity go out the window.Too much information can be bad information, and when it's constantly being fed to you, critical thought, problem solving, and creativity go out the window. Click To Tweet
Youth Sports and Social Media
The market is saturated. There’s a bevy of travel team clubs within a 20 mile radius. There are skills trainers in every neighborhood. There are speed gurus on every block. There are thousands of college programs. There are camps everywhere. There’s so much to do. FOMO can creep in, so you say ‘yes’ to everything thinking you’ll get ahead.
Keep your scope broad, your options open, do it all, and always be looking because, you deserve better, too.
Well, not really.
The Grass Isn’t Always Greener
Copious amounts of information can trick you into thinking the grass is greener on the other side, from trainers, to clubs, to college programs.
There are hundreds of soccer clubs promoting their pages, so you keep eyes peeled. You know, in case you’re a bit unhappy where you currently are.
You see the club down the street has better uniforms. You see they make their players Instagram celebrities. You are in awe of their facilities. You see more playing time. You see more college exposure and ID camps. You see a promise of player development on website mission statements. You see other teams smiling.
Club hopping is rampant. There are players who switch club teams every year for trivial reasons, and who get sucked into the allure on social media. They get distracted, chase the shiny objects, and fail to develop in one place. Kids become flaky and uncommitted as a result.
When a small problem comes up, happiness must be waiting on the other end…right?
Not so fast.
This way of thinking can rear its ugly head for many years to come in career, relationships, and life.
It’s tantamount to divorcing someone after one fight.
“He doesn’t clean the toilet!” A few small things can blow up into a life altering decision. The issue with bopping around and expecting things to be better elsewhere is this can prove to be more work, more disappointment, more suffering, and more energy spent in the end. It can lead to hurting others. It can mean deep regret. It’s selfish.
The couple who fights over the minutiae, then files for divorce, eventually has to face the harsh reality that it will be far more effort and pain to do so. To achieve their goal of being free from fights once and for all, they do the paperwork, go through the courts, go through several months of back and forth to settle things legally. Wouldn’t it have been simpler to water the grass where they were? To have a conversation and say, “let’s re-establish our house roles and sort out our chore duties,” instead of enduring the gut wrenching process of divorce? Wouldn’t a conversation also avoid the pain inflicted on the family? Sadly, people opt for what they think is an easy way out, yet it leaves them worse off than before.
Of course, a justifiable reason to leave a club team is abusive and negligent coaching that threatens a kid’s safety and destroys their confidence. I 10000000% get it’s time to run the other direction.
But for most, this isn’t the case. People leave teams for stupid reasons that could easily be hashed out, or made better if you just stayed where you were and had some patience. Does a conversation need to be had that you’ve swept under the rug? Do you need to take responsibility for how you’re showing up? Do you need to change your expectations? Do you need to be more grateful?
Nothing is perfect ever.
But things can get better if you water the grass where you are.
Beware of the Entitlement and Quick Fix Cultures
The majority of life isn’t all that grandiose. My weekly trip to the Walmart proves this time and time again. Getting groceries, paying bills, getting oil changes, making my morning coffee, and going to work do, too. Eventually, you have to shoulder responsibility and realize that most of life isn’t full of flashy posts, Likes, and dopamine hits.
You have to learn to escape the exuberance of the virtual world, and get excited about the mundane of the real world.
You won’t be elated and happy all of the time in reality, either. Some of the time, you’ll feel sad, but most of the time, you’ll feel eh…so-so. Social media doesn’t showcase the harsh realities and oscillating emotions of life. It gives you unrealistic expectations that you deserve a life of constant happiness and luxury.
It’s brainwashing kids to see life as a fantasy. Just become an Influencer and it’s margaritas and sunsets on the beach for you. Four hour work week? No problem. Just become Tim Ferriss, and passive income rolls in. Graduate college with a degree? You definitely deserve a six figure entry level job because social media told you you deserve more. Hate your 9-to-5? You definitely should quit and not stick it out because you were told by an online life coach to follow your passion. Hate waking up early for work? You deserve a two hour morning routine, minimal hours for maximal pay in your first year of work.
To make matters worse, the algorithm rewards short form content, which teaches you that everything must happen quick.
There’s no push for consistency. There’s no reward for good old-fashioned hard work. And there’s an odd sense of narcissism that you’re entitled to everything.There's no push for consistency. There's no reward for good old-fashioned hard work. And there's an odd sense of narcissism that you're entitled to everything. Click To Tweet
The truth is, life is made up of a tiny fraction of dream-like, amazing moments. You’ll spend 10% of life riding on a unicorn, and 90% trudging through the mud. Social media fails to show the richness of life. Instead, it peppers you with the highlights, without showing the work, adventure, and challenge along the way get to these dazzling moments.
Life is hard.
You’re guaranteed to go through loss, heartbreak, tragedy, and so much more. This doesn’t mean throw your hands up and scream, “well, what’s the bloody point of this dark world, anyway??” You can find meaning in the struggle. The human spirit is so incredible because it has the ability to overcome adversity.
To realize that life is a continuous adventure with guaranteed suffering, is to live a purposeful life. That’s what meaning is. Meaning isn’t getting to the finish line – the scholarship, the wins, the accolades.
Meaning is the compilation of ups and downs before the finish line. It’s facing the darkness along the way with courage. It’s getting back up on your feet. It’s plodding on after you fail. If you went straight to the finish line, and it were easy, you’d feel numb and empty.
If you were given everything you wanted all the time with ease and no hardship, that’s when nihilism creeps in and makes life become robotic and worthless. That’s when the world would truly be a dark place.
Your Actual Purpose and Worth
It’s not the scholarship that defines your worth, but how you show up for every single game, even if you ride the bench. It’s not how much you won or acquired, but how you treated your coach and teammates. It’s not the wedding that counts, but it’s how you treat your spouse every single day. It’s not the job promotion, but it’s you sending emails, going to meetings, and doing the daily admin work with diligence and excitement. It’s about you taking pride in the most monotonous of tasks for the rest of your life.
Maybe you could ignore the picturesque, fake reality on social media and get your life together. Look your friends in the eye and have a thoughtful discussion. Maybe you can use your time to make the world a better place, in person, instead of posting you, you, you, and dancing on TikTok. Maybe you can do your chores. Maybe you can stop doing what you know is wrong. Maybe you can thank a loved one for all they’ve done for you. Maybe you can connect with others and change the world by your presence. Maybe you can talk to someone face-to-face and intently listen to their words. Maybe you can find meaning in the hard times, instead of escaping them by staring at a 6″ inch blue light screen. Maybe you can overcome your fears by getting out into the world. Maybe you can finally brave real life with more courage and confidence.
Beware of the entitlement and quick fix cultures that reek all over social media.
Social media has a scary capacity to destroy relationships.
I’ve seen it lead to devastating break-ups. I’ve seen it divide families. I’ve seen it ruin friend groups.
There’s not much forgiveness left in this world. Say one thing wrong and you’re toast. Disagree on one thing, and they’ll unfollow you.
Even more terrifying, your career could be over from something you tweeted about 20 years ago. Even though you’re a changed person, have a genuine heart, and treat others with kindness today, the internet will rip you to pieces for something you did during another lifetime. The keyboard warriors claws are out and ready to capitalize on these moments. Ironically, these are the same people who are imperfect themselves, just like the imperfect person on the other side of the screen they’re seeking to destroy.
Everyone’s messed up in their lives, said the wrong thing, lied, cheated on a test, stole a toy from a friend. No one has lived a perfect life, but cancel culture is unforgiving and relentless.
Cancel culture sucks.
I’ve seen teenage girls lose best friends and significant others because of it. And over trivial things, too, like not sharing a Snapchat location, not posting about a certain issue, not getting on a trend bandwagon, not broadcasting their political ideology. I’ve seen friends get mad at each other for taking a comment totally out of context. Of course, maliciousness wasn’t your intent, but hey, cancel culture doesn’t care. No one wants to take the time to sort things out, and hear your side of the story. You’re done before you can even speak to defend yourself.
And it’s sad this is where we are.
What happened to friendships and relationships with depth? What happened to being forgiving of others? What happened to loving others as yourself, which means to see the mutual imperfections of your peers? What happened to building intimate connections and talking for hours in person or over the phone to hash things out? What happened to leaning into disagreements and fights because they can make your relationships stronger?
There’s always hope.
Maybe you made it this far and think the future looks bleak. Maybe you think I’m cynical.
I definitely don’t want to leave you on a grim note. I kicked off this essay with social media’s benefits, and I implore you to lean into them.
I encourage you to take inventory of how you’re using social media. Is what your doing augmenting your life? Are your expectations in check? Are you cultivating a healthy social life? Are you taking responsibility and getting your act together? Are you staying focused and being consistent? Are you following through on your commitments? Can you deal with reality and all of its adversities?
Use social media, but don’t let it use you.
Pursue a life of meaning, not mindlessness.Pursue a life of meaning, not mindlessness. Click To Tweet
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