Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Isolation of Teenagers

Over the past year or so, I've been able to watch several teenagers close-up in social situations. It's pretty ugly. I feel depressed for them although it wouldn't surprise me if they themselves didn't feel depressed but pushed the feeling down, covering it with complaints of tiredness and boredom.

They have hundreds of ways to communicate with one another, cell phones, IM, texting, Facebook, etc but so much of it is superficial. Text messages can only be 160 characters. They are learning to speak in soundbites, expressing incomplete thoughts. So their knowledge of one another is very shallow.

Beneath the surface of their lives is a pool of anger. If someone says something to them and it is perceived as something negative, they strike back in kind. They don't learn to trust one another. Resentment towards the other person builds and another friendship/relationship falls by the wayside. This just reinforces their isolation, that they are not understood, they are not loved.

Even if they have pets, they don't interactive with the pet. They may not even like to acknowledge that the pet has a name.

If they connect with someone long enough to get physically intimate, i.e. hook-ups, they discover another way to enable bad feelings to arise because they haven't gotten to know one another emotionally. The girl learns that her feelings aren't reciprocated so her heart hardens a little bit more. The boy learns either that he can use another person or, like the girl, feelings arise in him that he wasn't expecting and which he doesn't want. He quickly ends the relationship and thus his heart hardens too.

It's worse if the couple goes all the way sexually. They don't have the maturity to know how to discuss their feelings and they are not financially ready to make a commitment to one another, i.e. marriage and so stress arises and because they don't have the skills to resolve it, the relationship ends and their hearts are hardened.

Where did this come from? The family, I'm sad to say...

They weren't taught in the home to respect others, to look for the good in others, to put someone else first. While the hard skills; working hard in school, doing chores around the house, are important, the soft skills are just as critical to leading a happy life.

Please pray for them. If they continue down this path into adulthood, it doesn't bode well for the next generation either.


David said...


I found your blog while googling for Latin Masses in Massachusetts. Now that Holy Trinity is closed, I've been hoping to find one a little closer than Newton. Thanks for letting me know that there is one right next door at St. Adelaide's in Peabody! (I live in Danvers.)

You are right about teenagers. Part of the problem is that parents make their kids egocentric even with the best of intentions. Genuine communication, not to say love, isn't possible when we think the world is All About Me.


Lynne said...

Glad you found this blog helpful! I have even more good news, St Mary's Star of the Sea in Beverly may also be offering the TLM once a month on the first weekend of the month? So we'll have 2 out of 4 weekends a month covered on the North Shore.

I so miss Holy Trinity. It was a 20 minute ride into town, a beautiful church and wonderful priest and parishioners. It's one of our crosses to bear.

Regarding teenagers, you raise an excellent point. Isn't this allegedly the most narcissistic generation? It didn't become that way in a vacumn though. I claim part of the responsibility for that too with my daughter, i.e. I have made many mistakes along the way.

David said...

The narcissism today happened with the best of intentions. When my parents grew up in the 30's, no one had time for self-fulfillment. Everyone was pitching in for the greater good. So my parents naturally learned the virtues of self-sacrifice, and thinking about others rather than themselves.

When I grew up in the 1970's, my parents were determined to give us everything they missed. So we had music lessons, sports teams, clubs, family vacations, etc. The focus of family life was our development. Nothing wrong with that, but it inevitably gives the recipient an egocentric outlook on life. We saw life as a an opportunity for self-fulfillment, not as a time for sacrificing ourselves for God and others. This egocentric perspective on life is something I recognized in myself a long time ago, and have struggled against.

Today's children are similar to my generation, but they have parents who are themselves egocentric, unlike the parents of my generation. Today's parents are interested in developing their children, but also in "fulfilling their dreams", which makes the sacrifices they make for their children limited in some ways - particularly in time. So todays kids are egocentric like my generation, but also lonely and isolated.

The TLM is just what is needed now. It strikes right at the sore spot in the contemporary personality - the overblown ego. Everything about the TLM communicates the greatness of God and the humble nature of ourselves. There is no self-congratulation in the TLM. What a relief.


Lynne said...

"There is no self-congratulation in the TLM. What a relief."


It's very interesting how the two (this generation's narcissism and the TLM) are potentially connected...

I think the smaller family contributes to this over-blown ego too because the mother can justify spreading more time on herself and the one child. I hope there will be a backlash. I know my daughter would like to have several children (if she can find someone who is good marriage material).