Welcome to Ask Poppy! I’m Poppy, your go-to girl for all of life’s woes. And when I say ALL, I MEAN IT. I’m not an expert on anything except maybe for being me, which makes me totally qualified to do this.
I am a father of two girls and I am a little afraid of what might happen to them in the future. Right now, they are 19 and 18 years old and already dating, which is even considered late given the standards of young people nowadays. With the rise of the Internet, millennial culture, and other influences that are unique to this generation, I fear they are going through life so quickly. Their younger friends have already engaged in sex and don’t even think it’s a big deal.
They obsess over their Instagram feeds and try their best to project an image. What image? They’re not even celebrities. I fear they won’t understand what real happiness is in the pursuit of looking for it. I’ve heard of how “friends with benefits” nowadays sounds like a tame term compared to how people really treat each other these days. I’m afraid they won’t value every person they meet along the way.
I am afraid that my daughters are going about life, unaware of their privilege and unaware that there is so much more they can become, so much more than any social media platform can ever document or contain.
What I am trying to say is how can I tell them all of this without sounding preachy? How do I connect with them, appreciate what they have, but at the same time tell them that the culture around them is something they can change rather than be a passive entity of? That they need to stop and think a bit more about what they are doing in their lives and how it’s not just about following what the people around them are preoccupied with?
I’m not a parent and I plan to stay that way until I figure out how to fully live like a functioning adult. That probably won’t happen, so let’s not cross our fingers. However, that universal feeling of not being able to permeate the thick membrane that people shield themselves with is something that I do get. It’s natural that you don’t get what your daughters are living for because they will try real hard to shield these things from you.
Juan, you were a teenager once, and I’m pretty sure that you’ve faced the same things before. I mean, sure, things are way more different now because of the Internet and all these distractions, but you knew how peer pressure can lead you to do things that most adults would frown upon.
Earlier this week, I saw Mike de Leon’s Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising. Now, this film was made in 1977, but it appealed to me because it features the same sort of thing that my stupid friends and I would do. There’s this great scene where Buboy Garovillo and Danny Javier were passing around a joint while Hilda Koronel and Christopher de Leon were making landi in the distance. That sort of thing still happens until today and a whole lot of teenagers in the future will get lit while making fun of lovebirds from afar.
If you think that they’re going through life quickly, I’d say they’re going through it at a leisurely pace. Compared to teens living in the US, we’re still dealing with tamer kids who grew up with some semblance of our Maria Clara roots. At around 18, kids around that age are being thrown out of their homes to fend for themselves. Most American parents don’t give a shit about college tuition, leaving their kids to pay off their debts well until their 30s. Meanwhile, your kids are living with you, abiding by their curfews and your strict rules.
You simply can’t get rid of their fascination with social media because it’s like manna from heaven. They are nourished by the validation of likes and comments. It’s how they communicate these days. They don’t care what their mom and dad think; what matters more is how others will perceive them. I was watching this Anderson Cooper special called #Being13, and they collected data from hundreds of students, analyzing all their tweets and social media activities. It’s interesting because the Silver Fox’s face pops out every now and then, looking fine as China, but also because it showed some interesting tidbits about how teens are living these days.
There’s really nothing new in the special program, but it can shed some light on some things about social media that’s been bothering you. Anyway, what they found out is that teenagers have a tendency to keep an online façade that may often be jarringly different from their real-life identities. Online, your daughters might seem like vapid creatures who care more about selfies and shopping than doing some relevant shit that would help the future of all mankind. Their online selves are just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s best to go deeper to see what your kids are truly like IRL.
Growing up online, I’ve always felt that you really have to put up a front in order to get recognized. There’s really a need to amplify your voice, your thoughts, your being, and just put it out there for everyone to gawk at. Sure, your daughters aren’t celebrities, but these days, it’s important to have a following, or at least a group of people who care about the shit that you do.
My parents did not give a flying f-word about the Internet, so I mostly grew up learning the ABCs (anal, blowjobs, cunnilingus) through poorly-made Geocities sites. Of course, the Internet ruined me. Lord knows how many dick pics have raped my pretty virgin eyes. But the Internet also became my second home. So now, I have an online column, I work on strategizing digital content, and I met most of my friends through Tumblr. My online life eventually became my life and my online friends became people I actually know and work with in real life.
I’ve also made a lot of mistakes online. More than the lessons my parents have been screaming into my ears for the past decade, I feel like learning from the shit I went through online really solidified me as a human being. It made me notice my flaws, and when people called me out for acting like crap, I worked on improving myself. I feel like these are the things that my parents don’t know—how being online taught me to become a better person.
Juan, I know you want your daughters to be more present around you, but I think what you have to focus on is to keep them from hurting other human beings. You have to accept the fact that being online is part of their development. They’re gonna rebel if you take away the thing that matters to them most. The best that you can do is to guide them. You can monitor their online presence and discuss it with them if you feel that something should be taken down.
They’re teenagers. You can’t really whiplash them into acting in a way that’s more to your liking. Be a constant reminder to be mindful about the information that they disseminate online. Don’t let them post stupid bigoted opinions that may cause them to lose their contracts with Nike. And please, don’t comment on their posts. Give your comments in real life. They will appreciate it more.
You’re a good dad, Juan Jaime.
Will you be my daddy?
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Art by Dorothy Guya