With high school and college graduation season underway, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about all of the different chapters that we all experience in our lifetimes. Undoubtedly, the time period of which I have the most rich and vivid memories is adolescence. My life between the ages of 12 and 17 was so simple, yet so complicated. Most notably, though, shit was SO REAL!!!
Every high and every low from that period of time is so exaggerated in my mind. The feelings of painful awkwardness and humiliation around everything. The friends whose houses you went to EVERY single day, the crushes that dominated 90% of your thought stream, the experimentation, the trouble-making, the drama, the strange feeling of no longer being a child but not yet an adult, the pressure of everyone telling you that you must decide who are and what you want to become or else the world will chew you up and spit you out. And don’t even get me started on technology.
Internet and personal devices were revolutionary and made it possible for the teens of the 2000s to maintain an underworld of secret dealings. The rise of online chat rooms, the beginnings of social media, every one more or less having cell phones with texting capabilities. It was fucking awesome, except all of that added another layer to all of our anxiety level as young adults. And here we are in 2019… social media is ruling all of our lives.
It’s not at all surprising that studies are linking higher depression numbers in young adults to greater time spent on screens and social media. With the pressures of adolescence, combined with all of the FOMO, social isolation, body image concerns, and online bullying, it is REALLY hard to be a teen these days. But what can be done?
Of course there are tons of non-profits of which we can be in support, voting in political representatives that support mental health, and volunteering for youth mentorship organizations. But to me, the most valuable thing that we can all do, something that you can provide any teen at any time, is GENUINE CONNECTION!
The next time you’re at a family party with your teen nieces and nephews and they are texting or scrolling through their feed, start a conversation with them! Be inclusive of the parents with teens at your company or place of work and offer to take their son or daughter on a hike. If you have teens at home, speak to them as an equal and without judgment. The most important thing to me here is really asking young people about their lives and learning about the things that they care about. Whether it’s music, their friends, what they want to do after they graduate. There is no substitute for showing interest in what someone is feeling and thinking. And during a time in someone’s life where they are impressionable and impassioned, you can be proud that you are supporting a young person that will likely spread that empathy and connection to his or her peers in everyday life.
My involvement with teen girls has grown a ton over the course of being a photographer, mainly from doing senior portraits and graduation portraits. Overall, I am always learning so much from these gals about what is going on in the world (fashion, music, apps) and I really respect and enjoy this age group! Hope you all go out and make some connections with these kids and see it for yourselves!
Here are some shots from one of my recent teen/graduate portrait shoots of fabulous and intelligent 17 year old Zahra. $200 off to book your grad’s shoot through the end of June!