Social and Emotional Learning In a Competitive Landscape
On an average Tuesday, back in 2017, when I was getting ready to teach my Dangers Of The Mind social-emotional literacy curriculum to students in Washington DC, one girl yelled “ Instagram is blowing me!”. Naturally, I asked her why she was so upset. She said, “They are not giving me the likes I deserve for my picture!”
In that moment, I felt a range of emotions. First, I agreed with her. The picture was cute and she should have more likes, but then I asked myself why do I feel this way?
Why do we live for the validation of others more than we value our own opinions?
Social media has become an accessory to some and a casualty to others. It’s troubling to see so many young people put their value in the hands of a fickle audience. According to a recent study, 21% report feeling worse about their own life because of what they see from friends.
It’s equally problematic to see people become enamored with social media “influencers” or peers simply because the influencer or peer has a lot of followers or a strong brand. Most people are not posting their entire story. They usually only post their highlight reel, which gives their followers a limited perspective of who the influencer actually is holistically. Simply put, a lot of social media characters have followings that are built on half truths or outright lies. So it’s dangerous for our young people to start comparing and contrasting their personal profiles to the influencers who they admire.
We know we can’t filter what our young people see, but we can help create counter narratives by joining social media, posting uplifting messages and also using our platforms to introduce them to more dynamic channels of influence.
For example, on the Dangers of the Mind page, we have a “Takeover Tuesday” with one new brand ambassador a week. On this day, they either go live or do insta-stories about different dangers of the mind that they have overcome. This allows for our students to be engaged with us outside of the classroom and it also shifts students’ digital landscape by exposing them to positive influencers.
By understanding the digital environment, you can create programming in the classroom that can connect students to one another deeply and authentically.
In addition, you can foster self-reflection in the classroom so that young people can be more grounded in their own personal narrative.
- Give students incentives on a monthly basis
- Establish periods of self-reflection constantly
- Give students diverse opportunities to express themselves as more than a singular story, help them see and articulate their layers and complexity
In my social media literacy teaching, I’ve found that it’s important to educate youth and young adults about being more mindful regarding the likes that they seek and the likes that they are giving on social media platforms. Every time we like a photo, there is a mental imprint that is left in our mind. Research tells us that teens with more screen time and less face-to-face interactions report higher levels of depressive symptoms compared to peers.
Due to the instant gratification, several students live for the “likes” and become addicted to the validation of others on social media. In response to this tendency, my company started a “LEGACY OVER LIKES” digital campaign to show that our true value is rooted in the footprint that we leave on the world, not our social media impressions which are fleeting.
Rocking our “Legacy Over Likes” offers a reminder that our intrinsic worth is more important than any fanfare over a picture. Furthermore, our DOM curriculum and “Legacy Over Likes” workshops highlight core social and emotional learning skills that combat the negative and competitive messages in social media culture. We focus on building social and emotional learning skills such as critical thinking, social awareness, empathy, positive identity development and self-esteem.
I strongly recommend that educators, teaching artists and youth developers spend time in the classroom dissecting the impact that the social and digital landscape has on young people’s understanding of self, mindset and values — because it will surely impact how the student shows up in your class and approaches their work when at home.
To learn more about our Legacy over Likes workshop [click here].