As a Gen-Xer, I feel a sense of relief social media and smart phones did not exist when I was a silly, know-it-all, dramatic, over-sensitive teenager.
While I was “mostly” a goody-two-shoes, I was still capable of doing stupid, embarrassing stuff. But at least my youthful screw-ups were never online to be shared and laughed at for years to come!
If social media had been a thing in the 80s and 90s:
1. My friends absolutely would have been cruel enough to post a photo of me lying, almost comatose, on a Perth beach, moaning and drooling, after skolling three glasses of champagne on an empty stomach.
At 18 I learned the hard way that drinking too much has nasty consequences. What followed was a 12-hour hangover that meant I did not touch alcohol again until I was a 23 year old newlywed on my honeymoon. Even then, it was a watered-down wine and orange juice.
2. I would have annoyed the hell out of my Facebook friends, bragging about being asked out by a famous-in-his-day AFL player who, according to the West Australian newspaper, was engaged to a page-three model (although I did not know that at the time!) Yes, that was definitely Facebook worthy! Imagine the comments; from the nice ‘Wow, you’re a legend,’ to the nasty ‘He’s a bogan” comments I would have scored.
3. No doubt, I would have posted about how unhappy I was in Year 10 when a new girl arrived at my high school and ‘stole’ my then-best friend. What did she have that I didn’t have? Wasn’t I cool or pretty enough anymore? Or was it my Duran Duran obsession?
4. Oh, I would have posted tonnes of annoying content about a guy called Adrian. I had such a massive crush on him that I joined a water polo team, just so I could stare at him once a week at training in a nearby swimming pool. I was hopeless at water polo but it was worth getting scratched underwater by my team mates’ toenails, just so I could catch a glimpse of Adrian.
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Sadly, he never spoke to me and never looked twice at me. My friends were sick to death of hearing his name. They all felt sorry for me. However, a few years later, as a cadet journalist, I was covering a crime story and there he was! My crush, more handsome than ever – out of his water polo gear and into a police uniform. This time he did speak to me (because he had no choice). Yep, I definitely would have posted about that too.
5. There’d be tonnes of selfies wearing big 80s hair, dresses with shoulder pads, bubble skirts and pink lip gloss. Or, in my case, mostly photos posing in swimmers or embarrassing sunglasses at Rottnest island wearing my favourite NYCG swimmers.
I remember being very upset when a school friend liked my swimmers so much, she bought her own pair – how dare she! I remember feeling low one evening after water polo training and being ignored by Adrian again. Suddenly ‘Save a Prayer’ came on the radio at just the right moment, sheer synchronicity – I definitely would have captured that moment, tears of happiness. Yeh, my followers would have really liked that one!
“There’d be tonnes of selfies wearing big 80s hair, dresses with shoulder pads, bubble skirts and pink lip gloss.”
It goes with the rite of passage of being a teenager, that you must do stupid things, and make a few crazy mistakes and not listen to parents warning about posting silly things online. My generation X was also lax about heeding parental warnings, but our lives were not lived online and I regularly tell my teens that life was a lot easier before social media.
Yet, we all have to make our mistakes as we live and learn. Regret is also a big part of growing up and owning the decisions you make. But life is less stressful when the stupid things you’ve done live only in your memory. Not when your mistakes are there for the world to see.
The errors of youth are fast becoming impossible to erase and what’s difficult to understand when you’re young is that as you age, your values change – the person you were at sixteen is not the same at 30, 40 and beyond.
The silly girl that got drunk aged 19 and fell asleep on a beach before wasting a day vomiting is not the person I was at 25, let alone 45. While that foolishness played a small role in shaping the person I became, at least there is no incriminating evidence. It has been erased from everyone’s memory but my own.
So I’m glad social media wasn’t a thing when I was a teenager.
BUT: I wish there were more photos to show my kids. There are hardly any pics of me as a teen. I was a tall, thin, awkward blonde, terribly self-conscious of my height. At 14, I remember looking in the mirror and thinking “You must be the plainest girl ever.” Okay, I wasn’t that bad but that’s how I felt at the time.
When my kids ask about sixteen year old me, there are only a handful of photos I can show them, such as my Yr 12 formal night. Oh, what a night that was.
My formal date ended up ditching me. His name was Michael and he spent the night smoking cigarettes in his car. Then, someone else’s date, Peter, who realised I’d been dumped, took my hand and barely let it go all evening, leading school mates to whisper, ‘LJ has stolen ‘Mandy’s’ boyfriend!’ (I never saw him again- but although now he’s a politician I follow on Twitter. I reached out once to say hello but he has no memory of me or that night.
However, if social media had existed in the late 80s, neither of us would have been allowed to forget.