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Being a teenager is hard work.

It’s pretty hard being a teenager. In fact, I would go as far as saying that being a teenager was in fact the hardest thing I have ever had to do. All that personal growth and discovery all while navigating the minefield that is high school is an incredibly challenging journey that has trumped any other events (no matter how tragic, sad, or debilitating) that have occurred in my life to date. Fortunately for ol’ me social media wan’t too much of an issue ‘in my day’. Sure… we had the internet, MSN messenger, and My Space, but there was no requirement to be involved in these online platforms and cyberbullying and the world of fast fashion wasn’t yet invented. Fast forward to 2015 and teenagers have it incredibly tough! They can no longer leave school at school, or personal life at home. Each and every moment of their life is integrated with the next through the world wide web and social media and the mistakes that we all make as part of ‘growing up’ are permanently recorded as your online presence. No longer can teens be experimental without judgement. Every decision, action, and fashion decision is openly judged by peers and the wider community. Even teens who don’t participate in social media aren’t immune from it with stories of cyberbullying occurring in incidents where the victim doesn’t even have a personal online presence as  cyberbullies set up fake accounts in the victims name. Meaning that people who actively choose to opt-out of social media (or parents who refuse to let their children participate in social media) aren’t even safe from having their online presence altered by those who choose to vent their teen angst by being cruel.

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The Essena O’Neill movement.

With fast fashion and street style movements some of the trendiest people in the world are under the age of 20 and can be making thousands of dollars out of their online presence (all while making us older folk feel sartorially inadequate). Essena Oneill is one of them. I feel a bit of a geographical affiliation with this beauty as we are both residents of the Sunshine Coast and while I haven’t ever crossed paths with her, I have on occasions reviewed her online presence over the years and feeling her pain as a girl becoming a woman in the public eye. Essena shares in her recent ‘social media isn’t reality‘ movement, the pitfalls of investing time and energy into a space that isn’t tangible and has been hijacked as from being a communication tool and public platform for the masses, to being a free for all marketing opportunity and a place for anonymous (and often superficial or cruel) comment. You may or may not remember that I mentioned Essena back in the final months of my Wardrobe Workout challenge where I was grappling with the requests to be the face of my writing. While I have since come to a somewhat peaceful agreement with myself over my faces place in sharing my sustainability adventure (it appears sometimes but not too often), there is no denying that we humans like to see and judge people based on physical attributes. Essena’s video posts following a decision to publicly ‘quit’ social media have been simultaneously courageous and endearingly naive. The posts on her website Let’s Be Game Changers depict a beautiful soul who has been put through a wringer of emotional development through an onslaught of marketing opportunities and modelling ventures. It is quite difficult to watch this young woman share her private and personal life lessons in a public space, not because they are ‘wrong’ or ‘awful’ (despite criticism that her revelations are all just some elaborate marketing scam), more because they are revelations she should have come to on her own, in private. Her message is soulful, endearing, and will appeal to all the teens out there who are growing up in an overly public way and wishing to opt out. Here’s hoping that all the trolls out there in internet land leave Essena to pass her message on to those who seek solace from endless social media updates. Sadly our hyper connected world that is focused so strongly on image over substance is creating a generation of young people disconnected from what really matters, with teens checking social media 100 times per day and stating they would prefer to ‘not eat for a week’ than have their phone taken off. Teens who should be learning about themselves in a private matter, or in small groups of trustworthy peers (like it looks like Essena is aiming to achieve with her new blog venture), are having all their awkward teen moments splattered all over social media sharing spaces.   Hopefully Essena will pass on this message and encourage more young people to get off the e-devices and get back out there in the tangible world. 

 

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Social Media and the 30 Something.

Unfortunately being a 30-something doesn’t make you any more immune or enlightened to the ways of the fast paced e-world. We are forced for work or leisure to be a part of this e-communication system and by no means is this connectivity a bad thing. One cannot blame a tool for bad work! It’s the user who operates it. However, it can be very draining to have a real life, and an online life to have maintain and be ‘up-to-date’ with. I opted out of  personal Facebook (and all other social media) what must be around two years ago. At first it was a little frustrating because I was no longer up-to-date when it came to e-invites but over time I no longer cared. My decision to log off from my past was based on the idea that the people who matter to me are the ones who make the effort to keep in contact in a real and tangible matter. That real friends will be there in real life. It was causing me anxiety that people who I had known in the past who may not have been a ‘highlight’ in my journey could still follow my existence without playing a real part in it. As soon as I identified social media as a source of anxiety I knew it was time to let go. Fortunately as an adult this didn’t matter. There was no need for my peers to create a fake account for me to be bullied through. Sadly teens aren’t so lucky. Creating this online presence for Sustainability in Style has been an adventure. Fortunately for me the adventure has been positive and full of support from followers and the people I meet or know on a daily basis. I am so grateful for this!

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Measuring success.

An idea that has been difficult to deal with is the idea of success. This word has baffled me. As someone who is quite private about my life and prefers to listen I don’t often tell people I meet what I do in my spare time. If the topic of blogging and writing comes up (usually following an environmental discussion) I sometimes get asked about my blogging statistics as a measure of my success. Now, truth be told, I do occasionally look at Google Analytics but don’t really know (or care) what most of it means (however I do have fun going through and seeing where my message is being shared in the referrals section!!!). So my answers are pretty cagey and vague to these kind of questions. So too are my answers to ‘how many social media followers do you have’ because as much as I love the support of each and every person who reads this or likes a picture, numbers aren’t my measure of success.

So how does one measure success? I often get congratulated on having a successful blog. This is so confusing because I really have no idea what that means… What makes a blog (or anything else to that matter) successful? This is such an arbitrary idea as success truly is a measure of personal values. Some may remember when I because a little obsessed with Arianna Huffington’s ‘Thrive’ book. It looked to measure success as something more than our current measure of money and power. Unfortunately for some the success of an e-venture in blogging or social media is based on the number of people or number of dollars that you accumulate on your journey.  Essena mentions in the video above that none of this truly matters and that the climb to the ‘top’ knows no limits. There is no cap on the lofty heights of followers or hits you can gain. While my stats look nothing like the lovely Essena I feel very grateful for all the lovely people who take the time to talk sustainability both here and via social media. The post I wrote on ethics and blogging covers much of what Essena discusses above so I won’t go over it again but I will briefly note what success means to me at this moment in time. Success is being happy and balanced (which includes time for humble garden brags). If I can wake up every day feeling good about myself and my contribution to the planet I feel successful. Sure, this balance isn’t always perfect (the last month was AWFUL because I was overcommitted in so many ways) but when it’s in the right spot it wouldn’t surprise me if I exploded into a ball of glitter. The coolest part about this feeling is recognising it in others. I have enjoyed seeing Essena, someone who has always felt a little tinged by sadness in her online career, bursting with joy in her recent videos. I hope she feels glitter in her heart every day from here on out! Everyone deserves to live with a heart full of glitter. 🙂

So to sign off in a totally unoriginal way…Be kind to one another!

Feel free to share any musings in the comments section below.