I read an article this weekend, and it honestly escapes me exactly where, about a workshop held for teenagers regarding healthy breakups. I thought this was a pretty novel concept, given that I had no idea how to handle my first breakup, at seventeen years old. I treated it as some sort of death, walking around in a haze, assured my life was over. Given, I know now that this is how most young people treat that first experience, having nothing to compare it to. But how nice it would’ve been to have peer-driven dialogue and objective facilitation on the topic. I would’ve loved to have known that it was normal for me to be reduced to snot and tears at the discovery of a left-behind t-shirt (tie dye, by the way-ew), or to feel like my stomach was going to explode at the inadvertent eye contact made in a high school hallway with the Dreaded Ex. But these feelings blindsided me. I had no idea what to expect. And let me tell you, it sucked.
However, the Dreaded Ex became less dreadful, and eventually, an acquaintance. And the stinging memory of it became sort of laughable, in that God, I was ridiculous sort of way. And, on life goes. But man, do kids now have so many more tools at their disposal, when it’s time to cut someone loose. Or, to simply torture said partner with, until they are driven to end the relationship. I would have never, EVER survived high school, if texting and facebook existed. I mean, how do kids focus on anything besides the intracacies of electronic high school relationship betrayal? One boy interviewed for the article said that when it’s time to dump a girl, he simply changes his facebook relationship status to “single”, leaving the young woman in question to discover this on her own (unless a
meddling concerned third party discovers it first, during which time he/she will eagerly share the information). A number of the kids felt it was completely appropriate to end a relationship this way, or via text message. Are you kidding me? Look, I’m as non-confrontational as the next person (perhaps more so), but I feel like this is one of the times in life when you DESERVE to be uncomfortable. After all, you’re about to inflict emotional pain (and possible weight gain, depending on whether they decide to eat their feelings) on another person, so a few minutes of awkward, frank conversation is a fair trade, I’d say. People are owed that.
As I read along, I realized-kids don’t need a healthy breakups workshop, they need a healthy social skills workshop. And tech-savvy adults need a refresher course. Life is so embedded in electronics and technology that people are losing their ability to connect in real life with the people on the other side of the screen. And that extends way beyond childish breakup moves-these are practices that are becoming ingrained as normal and more or less universally acceptable. I myself am even guilty of it-I admit that I would much rather conduct a conversation via email, than telephone. It’s something I have to constantly be aware of, and move past. And don’t even get me started on the feelings I have when I misplace my iPhone. It’s shaming.
So, my thoughts are this: look away from the bright light (of a backlit screen) once in awhile. Make some eye contact, have a conversation. Read social subtleties, instead of trying to piece together someone’s tone via text. I think we’d be surprised to discover that our counterparts on this earth are (mostly )pretty amazing in real life. And kids-as hard as it is, take the time to tell your girlfriend or boyfriend that you’re making out with their best friend,face-to-face. It’ll make you feel like slightly less of a dirtball, and will provide you with the right amount of conscience-battering you deserve. Don’t make them wait to find out until they update their status feed.