It used to be we had to keep up with the Joneses– the fictional family who had it all. That morphed into Keeping with the Kardashians- another somewhat fictional family who capitalized on pretending to have it all and used social media to skyrocket themselves to fame and fortune. Now, the next wave has transcended upon teenagers, Keeping up with the Wiotosots. Who might that be? Whoever Is On The Other Side Of The Screen.
The Wiotosots are hard to keep up with. They seem to have everything, and their lives seem perfect. They have the newest I-phones, the most followers, get the most likes and do the most fun things. They never sit home (gasp!) and always look perfect (but of course!). The Wiotosots have tons of friends, all the latest fashion styles and chose the best filters for their pictures. They post clever captions, flaunt flawless bodies, and never have a bad hair day. Teenagers reflect on the Wiotosots and say “goals” because their lives appear easy and exciting. Everything they do is golden, and they never have problems, pimples, or pains. Keeping up with Wiotosots feels impossible, not only for teenagers but for parents as well because unlike us, they don’t have bills or budgets. It feels like our teens need to have everything the Wiotosots do, just to fit in. It’s a never ending black hole of needs and wants, and it’s draining us not only emotionally but financially as well.
Let’s rewind. If I would have asked for a $1000 hand held device when I was a teenager to be connected to my friends, my parents would have:
A. Laughed. Then told me to get a job.
B. Thought I was outside my mind. Then told me to get a job.
C. Never even considered it. Then told me to get a job.
D. All of the Above
No surprise, the answer is D. (Side note: My first car cost my dad $600 and while it wasn’t pretty, it did the job.)
Times are different. As a parent, we must appreciate that life now is different from when we were teenagers. Social media has created consumers, comparers, and competition with this generation of teenagers. They are prime targets for marketing gurus and often lured into buying not only products but also portraying an image. Anything obtained that is deemed cool is immediately posted for others to see and approve of. Teenagers are often driven by wants, not needs and the measure of feeling accepted often lies on them having the latest and greatest new toy or electronic device. It’s a materialistic trap our kids have fallen into and we, as parents, often feel dragged down right along with them.
Some of this is our fault. It’s easy to lose the value of a dollar when you are paying $4 for a cup of coffee or $6 for a smoothie. Perhaps we have all lost the value of a dollar- simple to do in our instant gratification, push-a-button-to-get-what-you-want culture. Recently I told my daughter that we could not afford something. She quickly asked if we were poor. The question stumped me, but I eventually told her that “Compared to Bill Gates, we are poor. Compared to your peers, we are average. Compared to the rest of the world, we are wealthy”.
Peer pressure has been around for a long time. It’s nothing new and we all grow up experiencing it at some point in our life. Thanks to social media, the pressure to have important “stuff” has become a powerful influencer in the lives of teenagers. Not only do they want the latest and greatest “stuff”, they want to let their peers know that they have it to feel acceptance and approval. Hello Wiotosots.
As parents, it’s difficult because we want our teenagers to be well adjusted and happy. And when your teenagers believe Beats headphones or Hunter rainboots or a drone will make them happy, we want to get it for them. If we paused before we purchased though, we can use this moment to teach our kids that happiness doesn’t come from acquiring stuff. As matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite. Very little is needed to make a happy life. New stuff is fun, but the happiness connected to it is fleeting. The truth is, you can’t order, purchase, or acquire happiness. It comes from taking stock of what we have and appreciating what is in front of you. Happiness and gratitude go hand in hand.
I’m not casting stones—Lord knows my kids are consumers too. We have hoverboards, fidget spinners and old I-phones that were traded in for the new and better ones. My garage is filled with things my kids desperately “needed” that now sit in a corner collecting dust. I get it. But at some point, we must take a stand against the Wiotosots. We must remind our kids that even those who appear to have it all, don’t. And if they do, most often it comes at a cost like maxed out credit cards and debt piled to their necks. We must point out that advertisers target teenagers and You-tube Influencers are paid to promote certain products. Watching videos is not just for laughs and kicks, it’s actually on-line shopping. You-tubers aren’t just pushing funny ideas or pranks, they are pushing products and merchandise.
Managing our teenagers need to consume begins with us at parents. If we need to have everything, so will our kids. Our kids listen to us. If we compare our lives, our homes, our cars, or our things, so will our kids. Practice gratitude at home. Remember that saying “no” or “I’m not willing to buy that” isn’t depriving our teenagers of a life well lived, it is helping them create a life well lived. Teaching them to work for something they want is a gift we give them, way better than anything we just hand them. Cell phones, cars, computers, gaming units, are all privileges, not something they are owed. Working for what you want makes us appreciate what we have and helps determine the difference between needs and wants.
Yes, the Wiotosots are cool. They have the best stuff. Lucky them. But life isn’t fair and there is always going to be someone who will have more than you do. Life also doesn’t always give us what we want, not because we don’t deserve it, but because sometimes what we have is plenty and we don’t need more. Teenagers are essentially “Adults-in-Training”. It’s our job to teach our future adults that their character is so much more important than their social image, the Wiotosots are not real or authentic, and that more is not always better.