Some weeks ago we were walking through the woods – and I suddenly got the flashback of my adolescence. We were visiting friends outside of Oslo and took a walk to the beach. Through the woods which went up and down, with a little river and a bridge over it. This spot brought a vivid memory of a similar place in other woods – in the village where my grandmother lived. I walked there, some 14 years old, and that place seemed just charming to me. Why? Because I thought, it would look perfect in the photo. At that time my pictures could be taken by the old black-and-white analog camera, difficult in use. Why did I want those photos? Passion for photography at such a young age?
No, it was not the passion for art. It was a wish to show something to my classmates. And how did I get inspired? So, there was this popular girl in our class, Irina, and in the back of her day-book (an obligatory book where we noted our schedule, homework and the teacher put our marks into it) she had some chocolate wrapping papers and photos. Yes, we were showing each other the papers of sweets we ate. Asking each other: “Did you try Mars? Did you try Snickers?”
And those black-and-white photos featured Irina in a jeans skirt somewhere in the nature, over fallen trees and waters. So, when I saw the woods in my grandmother’s village, I knew it would make that perfect location. I just needed some chocolate papers.
I was a teenager in the wild 90s which were really wild in that place which was left after the USSR had fallen. The old big country collapsed, its whole system too, and the new countries were starting a new order of things. Half-politicians, half-criminals were re-dividing the national riches under given circumstances (which were chaotic). Some got really rich. Many became really poor. Both of my parents lost their jobs. My mom started working on the market, selling all different kind of stuff in all kinds of weather.
When our neighbor complained that they had to survive on potatoes and eggs, we laughed after she left. Potatoes and eggs sounded like luxury to us. We were eating lots of pearl barley, the cheapest cereal on the market, with the tomato sauce, that is: tomato pasta plus fried onions. We ate it for so long, that when one December my mom announced: “Ok kids, there gonna be no more barley this year”, we cheered. Only to realize that “this year” was only three weeks left.
So, you can understand, why I never tried Snickers or Mars, so heavily advertised, by the way, in my young years. There was no budget for meat or eggs, let alone chocolate. One year, though, before New Year’s Eve my mom bought some sausages, eggs and cookies. Ahh, that was the cheerful season! And once my mom got a chocolate wrapping paper from Greece (don’t ask me how, long story) – and I was so proud to put it in the end of my day-book. It didn’t make me more popular, but then I didn’t know that being cool was not all about chocolate wraps and photos in the woods.
Now, walking through the Norwegian wood made me all philosophical and asking questions. There was I once – and my classmates competing in how many types of chocolate they have tried. There we have the today’s youngsters who follow bloggers and copy their unhealthy lifestyle of flashy glamour and plastic surgery.
It is a huge theme in Norwegian cultural scene. Or better say, there are two. First, bloggers and their, mostly young, followers. Second, the broader society ringing alarm about the influence of the bloggers. How can they run so much sponsored content without informing about it? How can they influence our kids and deny their effects, calling it “I just have my online diary”? How can they profit on destroying the self-esteem of the young generation?
(I guess, this cry is even louder here in Scandinavia that once could so proudly boast of the advance of feminist ideals. How can it be that their daughters become so preoccupied with their appearances, trying to look like glamorous bimbos? The image their mothers were fighting against, in all their words and old jeans?)
While I don’t want in any way to protect the bloggers and their ways – I ask myself: can we blame it all on them? The weakness of the self-esteem among youngsters? Their wish to copy the best and brightest, no matter whom they find so? Their effort to get approval by conforming the peer culture?
If we didn’t have Instagram, Snapchats and numerous influencers – would our youngsters run around, free and happy? Would they not suffer from social exclusion and low self-esteem and the wish to do anything so that they can feel belonging and social accept?
I was a teen before all this digital craze. And yes, it does things worse. But I ask you: can you remember how it was to be a young person? Even if it was 20 years ago (and yes, it is scary to admit it, and please, don’t consider me a grandmother :))). Because I still remember. And gosh, I am so thankful, I am done with that period. That period of the strongest insecurity, not knowing if you fit in any social circle, an intense urge to belong – and zero ideas of how to do it. If I could find any blogger whose advice I would follow – I would surely do it (including some consumption or boob operation). But – was it better for me without bloggers? There was still this popular Irina and her unachievable army of chocolate wraps.
This is my point. If we didn’t have teen bloggers, would it be so much better? Sure, our kids would not compare their chocolate wraps – but don’t you think, they would find something to compare? Something to feel inadequate about? Something to get the low self-esteem from?
This is my question. Is it, maybe, the destiny of being young? Its karma, if you want to call it so? To fight for your position in the social circles: to slowly realize that you are no kid anymore – and have a tough time figuring out who you are and where you can belong. And do whatever it takes to be cool and get that social accept you need so badly. Black-and-white photos in the woods or glamorous Instagram feed. Chocolate wrapping papers or expensive bags (or lip fillers).
What do you think of teen bloggers and their audience? And what are your memories of your teen years?