I think we’ve all noticed a trend of viral blog posts containing the words “What Every Twenty-Something Must _____ Before They _____” or “Why You Shouldn’t Get Married Before ____”…I could go on. In fact, if I see the phrase “Twenty-Something” again, I might go crazy.
The pervasiveness of social media has made us all hyper-sensitive to how others feel we should live our lives. Of course, caring what other people think or worrying about societal norms is nothing new. But these expectations and, sometimes, entirely opinionated pieces are now being sent to our phones or invading our Facebook newsfeed which we just happen to check every day or every hour – can we go one day without seeing what someone else thinks we should look like, do or not do, wear or not wear?
Here’s the problem: it is what someone else thinks you should do/wear/believe and this will never please everyone and often won’t even please you for the right reasons. You cannot make everyone happy. For every post about why you shouldn’t get married in your early twenties, you will see five more from the opposite side of the debate vouching for why you should of course get married and have kids young.
When it all comes down to it, who do you listen to? Whose is the most legitimate opinion?
The problem is relying on the opinions of others instead of forming your own. The fact that we see these expectations so often and in so many places can make you rely on others for your ideas of who you are, how you should behave, what political or religious views you should hold, and other important life decisions.
I am a Christian and my faith is the most important part of my life, but I do not believe the best way for someone to make a decision about their faith is to be told that it is what they should do or believe by society, by friends, or by a post shared on Facebook a million times. I think sharing your faith with others is great. But I think the decision of faith is something that should be extensively explored and researched by an individual and should hold a personal, intimate place in a person’s life. That feeling is not something that can be created in a virtual world. It has to be found in the real world without a reliance on others.
The same goes for marriage. There is no one out there who should be telling you when you should or shouldn’t get married except for you. This is a decision that should involve personal reflection and consideration and that is something lacking in our decision making skills these days.
Let’s step it up, guys.
When you put real thought into your decisions that do not involve the opinions of others and come to a conclusion on your own, those decisions will hold a more honest, relevant and personal place in your identity. You can truly say you are your own person making your own decisions and you can live without regrets.
What we should really spend more time doing is not arguing about which path is “correct” or why “ours” is better than “theirs” but instead how to better achieve what we believe is right for us. We should learn to leave our computers/phones in the background of our lives and find how to live outside of our virtual societies of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and those expectations. We should stop putting so much thought into what we must do by a certain age and start really living and enjoying what this age has to offer. You can do just about anything at any age if you want to and are willing to work hard enough to make it happen.
I am not trying to argue that everything is relative or depends on the person. Good advice for people in different life stages is always welcome and can be helpful, that’s obvious. My main point is that you sometimes need to take a step away from social-media-decision-making and explore things on your own, especially when it comes to making more important life decisions. I also think there is a difference between articles simply sharing an opinion, giving advice or sharing stories and articles that claim that one way of life is the wrong way or the right way. Read as many articles and opinion pieces as you want, by all means. But keep in mind the other point of view. Look at the alternatives. The preferences of someone online are not necessarily true or right for every person and should not be pushed as if they are.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson