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How The Internet Helped Me Find My Voice As A Social Media–Obsessed Teenager

I overcame my shyness and started participating more in family discussion — even when I knew that no one else shared my opinion. It felt enlightening, freeing, and absolutely amazing.

As a young person who was born sometime in the mid-’90s, being surrounded by technology for one's whole conscious life seems normal. I think that because of this, my generation has found it increasingly easier to make and voice our own opinions, particularly with the aid of social media.

I lived a fairly sheltered childhood growing up, and I certainly didn’t have a phone or access to any form of social media (mainly because when I was younger it didn’t exist in the form that it currently does) until I was a teenager, unlike some children now. Because of this, it was always easier for me to believe what my parents would tell me back then, and agree with them. I thought that they were the be-all and end-all of omniscience in the world. As I became older and transitioned into teenager-hood (idk — go with it), I started finding outlets such as Twitter and Tumblr and, basically, all of the Internet.

And let me tell you: This changed everything.

I spent hours reading firsthand accounts about social injustices, such as the Ferguson riots, which were only being broadcast on the news for mere minutes. I started understanding more and not just watching from afar. Instead, I was actually engaging. Seeing these firsthand accounts from real people, being updated every minute, seeing pictures and videos from events and feeling a part of them, is one of the many things social media provides. This is so beneficial for us as a society — it keeps us fully aware, the rawness of it, the complete lack of understatement, of bias, of warped truth. Social media is a gift! If used correctly, it allows us to wholly experience anything that’s going on, feeds us information, and allows us to express ourselves in a multitude of ways.

Being able to make your own judgment and have your own opinion is one of the most liberating feelings. Without the Internet, and especially sites like Tumblr, I wouldn't have been able to achieve this. I know that many LGBTQ+ people treat social media as an outlet — they know that even if people in their real life won’t be accommodating of them, people on the Internet will accept them with open arms. And, somehow, that is enough. It’s extremely difficult when your parents or older family members think one thing (and think they completely know and understand the situation) and you think the other, especially when they then tell you that you're wrong and "too young to understand."

Sometimes — actually, most of the time — it seems as if members of our parents' generation are too old to understand. They don't realize that there are hundreds of sides to each story (OK, not hundreds, but you know, my generation likes to exaggerate): some fake sides, some real, some exaggerated, some toned down. The difference is, on social media, finding the facts is easy — you just have to know where to look. Relying on family or friends for information can get cloudy and problematic. Having the confidence to stand up to your family, to tell them that you don’t think that they're seeing it from the whole perspective, or that they are in fact misinformed, is something that I wanted to have for ages. Trust me: Proving someone wrong is the best feeling, but when you also feel that you’re educating someone? Even better. Being able to voice my opinion openly on Twitter helped with that confidence, and eventually I overcame my shyness and anxiety and started participating more in family discussion — even when I knew that no one else shared my opinion. It felt enlightening, freeing, and absolutely amazing.

I guess what I'm really trying to say is: Growing up in this generation, surrounded by social media, has allowed me to do just that — become more social. I've become more socially aware (or "woke," as one might say) and actually in tune with world issues. I'm social in the sense that I can voice my (heavily backed-up) views to my (somewhat closed-minded) family and, sometimes, friends. Social in the sense that, when meeting new people, the conversation starter can be something other than what the weather is that day. Instead, it could be about the current election going on in a country across the ocean from where we are, because as a person living in the U.K., the idea that someone as awful as Donald Trump being the next president seems to be a universal disgust among people my age.

Basically, social media gives you, me, your friends, your family — pretty much everyone — power. Power to incite change, power to involve oneself in social actions, power to form individual thoughts and opinions, power to make a change! Social media is so important (when used for good), and so while issues such as cyberbullying are obviously prevalent today, for me, the pros of social media outweigh the cons. It's the most universally usable tool someone could own. My only advice is to use it wisely — and for good.

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