Why I'm Glad I Was a Teenager in 2007, not 2017

What do you think of when you picture yourself in junior high or even high school? For me, it's braces, acne, total social anxiety, and basketball games (I was the statistician for all our school's teams. In case you were wondering if you were cooler than I was, the answer is yes.) Even though there were definitely girls at school and in my youth group who were pretty and less awkward than me (not saying much since I got called Mia Thermopolis a lot), for the most part it seemed like everyone my age was kind of going through the awkward Clearasil years together.

One thing that stands out to me (aside from the fact that I THOUGHT I WAS FAT AND I WAS SO NOT #younganddumb) is how even though I am just coming up on ten years since graduation (yikes!) it feels like my teen years were FAR different than the generation of teens today. Not to sound like I'm shaking my cane too much, but being around teenagers (especially day in and day out in the classroom for years) has made it abundantly clear that they are growing up in a world that would barely be recognizable to me when I was in, say, 9th grade. 

Some things are the same- crushes, insecurity, again- thinking you're fat when this is probably the best shape you'll be in in your whole life, sweetie, so enjoy it- "love" triangles, gossip, drama, etc. (Wait, did I just describe high school or adulthood? Am I adulting wrong?) But some things- namely the Big Bad Social Media- are totally different. 

Everyone gripes about how smartphones and social media and the Internet in general are ruining the minds and destroying the souls of children and young people everywhere, and maybe they are... but let's think about how good kids these days have it, shall we??

It seems like more and amore teenagers are suddenly able to skip their awkward, ugly stages and just go straight to looking like normal, functioning human beings, which everyone knows teenagers are not supposed to be. Looking slightly unattractive and out of place is practically a rite of passage and part of the deal of puberty. So where do these girls come from with their contoured faces and perfect yet effortless messy buns? Explain this sorcery!!

We didn't have YouTube (if we did, it was brand new.) There were no makeup channels, no tutorials for how to blend the perfect smoky eye. If you wanted information like that, you might possibly find it in Seventeen but it wasn't guaranteed and there definitely wasn't a video to go with it. (Perhaps this explains my overdosing on sparkly eye shadow or other girls' Jack Sparrow eyeliner phase. *Cough*April*Cough*) We didn't have hair tutorials either- we barely had hair TOOLS. I vividly remember the first girl at school getting a hair straightener and what a huge deal that was and how proud I was when my sister straightened my own bushy hair for the first time. (Straight hair, makeup, my Gap turtleneck- I really thought I was all that and a bag of Chili Cheese Fritos, y'all. It's embarrassing.) 

And what about social media?? If you liked a boy, you couldn't scroll through his Instagram to see what (or who) he was interested in. Our version of that was sneakily scanning whatever was pinned up in his locker and then casually working it into a conversation. "Oh you like... (squinting) Brandon Donovan?" "Um, Landon Donovan?" "Yes, that's what I said... so, soccer, huh? Cool." (Awkward silence.) 

If you were lucky enough to be online at the same time, there was a chance (at least) of talking through instant messenger, since even cell phones were still pretty rare. And maybe you could exchange emails? Maybe? (I found some emails from Jonathan written in 2006 and they were RICH. Rich, I tell you.) Or, of all things, you might even (gasp) talk on the phone. Like, into the little speaker that it was actually designed for. I think some kids today have never even heard their cell phones ring. It's madness! =) 

Even their clothes are better now- I mean, you couldn't pay me to wear a crop top or off-the-shoulder shirt (all the rage) but at least now they have skinny jeans and tunics... we had masculine polo shirts with popped collars (whyyyy) and long khaki skirts (ew) and massive clog-type shoes and Aeropostale graphic tees. Fashion has come a long way, girls. Be grateful. 

Of course... OF COURSE, I'm kind of kidding about all this (not entirely, because it would've been great to be able to plan an outfit by simply opening Pinterest or to keep tabs on a boy without being a creeper who asked his friends) but the honest truth is, I wouldn't DREAM of having had social media to document my life through junior high and high school. I had the most ridiculous crushes, the most pitiful personal drama (another thing to be grateful for, kids- bullying wasn't yet the huge issue it is today and so people got away with it a lot more), and yes, the braces and acne and clunky shoes and ugly clothes. (To be fair, they were cute for their time. Still.) What would my Facebook have looked like? 

"Ashley Baines.... is SO stoked to take stats for the Bulldogs game! Gotta get that W, boys!" (Groan.)
"Ashley Baines.... is wondering why he won't even notice me." (I'm seriously gagging right now.) 
"Ashley Baines.... is headed to Youth Hour. Has anyone seen my nylons?" (Hahahaha- a little humor for those in our youth group.) 
"Ashley Baines... is exhausted from volleyball practice!" (Yeah, maybe because I was terrible.) 

Seriously though, they would all be SO lame. And there would undoubtedly be pictures to go along with them, pictures that do exist but thankfully are limited to the prints from the rolls and rolls of film from disposable cameras we used. (I also vividly remember the first trip to camp when a few people had digital cameras and they were a HUGE deal. No smartphones, obviously.) 

I guess my point is that there are pros and cons to both generations (do I qualify as a different generation? I feel like I do) and while I'm jealous of the instant, endless stream of information that kids today can access, I also recognize how damaging and dangerous it can be and I'm thankful to have had to have actual conversations (or write notes and fold them into cool little shapes, something I never really learned to do, to slip into people's lockers) and do research in actual books and cut articles out of actual newspapers for current events. (Actually the last part was a lie. Current events were a huge pain and I never remembered to cut out my article. Online news for the win.) And while I mentioned bullying, which sadly happened to me, it's not like anyone could spread anything terrible about me in seconds... it would require planning and probably something hand-written. But the instant gratification and removal of a time period to process decisions is a slightly heavy topic that could fill a post of its own. =)

My 15th birthday- braces? Check. Awkward smile? Check. Polo shirt? Check. Bushy (probably used a cheap early-model straightener) hair? Check. (That's Amanda with the death grip on my shoulder. Ha!) 

So, kids, you can keep your messy buns and perfect makeup and leggings-as-pants (actually, please don't keep those; no one should!) and your #squad and #yaaassss and #perfection and whatever. Reading into passing comments was practically a hobby of mine- can you imagine if I had had to deal with SUBTWEETING? I was a nervous, neurotic, awkward, insecure mess as it was- I honestly think the pressure of social media would have been my ruin. Or maybe I would have leaned into it in all my three-point-shooting, stats-taking, glasses-wearing glory. Who can say? I just think that part of who I am (and who all we millennials are, good, bad, or ugly) is due to the fact that we had to struggle through life without the (constant, non-skeeeering AOL boot-up) use of the Internet. In some ways, that was hard. In other ways, it was amazing. I'll keep my memories of disposable cameras, hand-written notes, awkward phone calls, and even face-to-face conversations. Because a hand-made scrapbook page covered in slightly blurry, red-eyed pictures- those are the real #goals. *Always and forever.* Ha! 

Oh, and one last thing- teenagers today do have an amazing gift that we did not- and whatever I say  with nostalgia about a simpler time, I do not ever again want to live in a world without emojis. The horror! ( Insert crying laughing and heart eyes here. =) 

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