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Society Has Continuously Changed

Society has continuously changed over time into the generation that we see today. Although everyone that came before was different, they were similar in that something or someone influenced them. It could have been a public figure, a movement, or an era. They all gravitated towards something that became a basis for who they were. That is the same in today’s society. Teenagers are letting multiple facets of life lead them, whether it would be friends, current events, or social media. I experienced this first hand in my life through my service-learning project. It was troubling to see and hear the students I was working with show more emotion towards an event that happened rather than show that emotion towards God. After the experience that I gained from volunteering, I realized that teenagers are gravitating their attention towards things that are impacting their lives negatively than positive. This can be positive a positive influence, but based on studies and life experiences, it seems as though there are more negative influences than positive.

I saw this occur while I was conducting my service-learning project. For my project, I wanted to find an organization that worked with students and was influencing them in the right direction. I started volunteering with the student ministries at Orlando Baptist Church. During my time there, I had the privilege to become a small group leader to the 7th grade boys at the church. I was not sure how it was going to work out because I had never done anything like that before. It felt like a daunting task, but it was actually an enjoyable experience.

I was able to interact with the kids and study first hand what are some things that are influencing them in their lives. At first they were not opening up to me, and they were frustrating me at times. But as we were all getting to know each other better and I started to open up with them during discussion that we would have after the weekly service, they started to give me their trust. They began to become more open about their thoughts and emotions discussing what was going on in their lives.

The experience that I had will be unforgettable because of the impact I was able to make on these students. It is not the same for many teenagers across the country and the globe. Teens these days have avenues to go towards when it comes to role models and inspirations. One catalyst for this is technology. This market has been increasingly getting larger over time. Along with that is the use of social media. According to a peer review journal done by Pennsylvania State University, 95% of American teenagers between the ages of twelve and seventeen are online. 81% of them are using some form of social media, whether it would be Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. (Caroll, Jia, Rosson, Xu, Wisniewski 1). In this study, they looked at different forms of social media, and saw how this affected teenagers’ behaviors both publicly and privately. They found that many placed themselves in behaviors that could play a risk in their lives. That includes disclosing personal information like names and email addresses. It not only included that, but also sensitive information, such as cell phone numbers, addresses, and interests. This ultimately led to some teens posting or discussing topics that they ultimately regretted. People today are telling more about themselves through these platforms, and there are many teenagers that are noticing these things. This is a major area that can play a role in their lives, because they could follow the attitudes and behaviors of followers, just because of the popularity that they are having online.

Social media is not only is a concern for the teenagers, but also peer influences. According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, other peers have a greater significance on a teenager’s life during the period of adolescence. Peers can assist in establishing new identity, habits, and friendships (Huan, Unger, Soto 54). In this study, the researchers had a focus towards social media, specifically social networking sites. It explains that although students being invlolved in those sites can have an upside, such as “connecting with friends, sharing pictures, and exchanging ideas,” (Huan, Unger, Soto 54) there are some risks. Some of those include negative sharing to friends, which overtime, can develop into a habit of bad behaviors. I saw this not only at the organization that I worked with, but in my own personal life as well. When I was in elementary, I had a decent amount of friends whom I was able to talk to and whom I could trust. Out of those friends, I had one best friend whom I would tell everything to and would spend time with. It felt like I was part of his family. As we were getting older, some of his other friends were influencing him in a negative way. They were making him listen to inappropriate music and watch shows that were not suitable for kids that were our age. His attitude and his mood started changing and it got to the point where I had to make a decision about whether he was going to be a positive impact, or a negative one, so I had to stop being close friends with him.

It is incredible to see and read how students are becoming influenced, and there are several psychological aspects that can be taken into account. There are unique cultures that are being formed because of society today. In the Cross-Cultural textbook, culture is defined as “a set of attitudes, symbols, and behaviors,” that are “shared by a large group of people and are communicated from one generation to the next” (Shiraev, Levy 3). Today’s generation is creating a culture that is based on self-gain and attention. This can be evident through many teenagers posting on social media and insisting on being the most liked or the most followed. Some may be so desperate that if they don’t reach a goal of followers or likes on a post, that they go to every length possible to make that goal a reality. My brother was part of that culture, and it consumed him to the point where he would make it a point everyday to tell everyone to follow him.

According to simplypsychology.org, conformity is a type of a social influence that is “involving a change in belief or behavior in order to fit in with a group” (McLeod 2016). Conforming is based on group pressure, whether it would be physical or imagined. It is listening and following along with what others are doing, or the consequence could be not being part of the social norm. This is a term that as been used for a long time. There are different forms of conformity, with examples being compliance, internalization, and identification. They each have to deal with forms or group pressure, whether it would be being forced to comply, or accepting the behaviors and going along with it. Many teenagers seem to be focused on being accepted and fitting in. While I was conducting my service project, I noticed conformity being shown in multiple ways. Many of the students that I was working with started saying a phrase and it was one that they heard from a movie, and when someone came in and did not know what it meant, then the students would poke fun of the others, and I did not tolerate that. I told them that there should not be a need for this and that they are not suppose to be like other people, but be unique.

Based on my studies, teenagers and their influences can be considered a behavioral issue According to the textbook, there are different behavioral reasons for a person to be influenced a certain way. This could be either and internal or an external influence. Internal influence can be described as “a person’s personality traits, characteristics, or attitudes” (Shiraev, Levy 67). External influence can be described as behavior that can be caused by a person’s surroundings, environments, and circumstances. Teenagers need to be careful with whom they surround themselves with and they behavior that be shown around their peers. If they are around people with a negative behavior, eventually it will start getting to them and it can be difficult to get out of it.

Emotions can play a role in a teenager’s influences whether they realize it or not. Our emotions can cause us to experience many things. The textbook discusses how certain emotions can lead to perceptual and belief changes (Shiraev, Levy 164). It can cause a person to create stereotypes about one another. Teenagers are going through phases where their mood changes and one day they can feel this way and the next day they can feel the opposite. This can affect their decision-making and it can lead to choices that they may regret. Influences can be caused my emotional and irrational decisions.

According to study.com, perception is described as “recognition and interpretation of sensory information.” It’s not only recognizing, but it also is our response. Social perception is the way that we learn to understand ourselves and other people. This is based on judgment, attitudes, and beliefs based on social experiences (Shiraev, Levy 249). Teenagers have varying interpretations about categories that can include contrasting views from others. They have their own choice to interpret what they see and what can be an influence to them. When I was volunteering with the students, my job was not to force them to change what they believe or see, but it was to give them advice and to be a guide for them. I was trying to lead them in the correct way to interpret things, but the students had their own choice.

There are times though where teenagers can feel a sensation when they are around their peers and when they are doing something that they enjoy. Sensation can be described as “the process that allows our brains to take in information by our five senses” (study.com). It is also incorporates interpreting and responding the information that our senses are receiving. These five senses, vision, hearing, taste, touch, and smell, each collect specific parts of the environment that relays to the brain. Teenagers can be influenced by a certain sensation and they may not be satisfied unless the sensation returns. It could be the smell of coffee, going on a rollercoaster, or seeing a movie. These sensations can play a significant role in what can influence them, because these senses travel back to the brain and eventually, they can recall the feeling that they felt when a certain moment happened. Influences on a teenager can affect their actions and cognition as well. According to the textbook, cognition can be defined as a diversified process by which an individual acquires and applies knowledge (Shiraev, Levy 116). It involves multiple areas such as categorizing, memory, and thinking. Everyone, especially teenagers, attains multiple forms of knowledge through everyday interaction. It is up to them, though, to apply their knowledge in a positive way. They can be influenced to think negative thoughts and apply that and there will be consequences to it.

Teenagers are susceptible to many changes and influences. It can be something that is insignificant, but it could also lead to negative consequences. I was able to make a difference in my service-learning project, but it is up to them to make a choice whether they want to be a difference in the word or not.

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