“When we listen, we hear someone into existence.”
― Laurie Buchanan, PhD
Dear Mom and Dad,
There’s something I need to talk about, something big that’s been swirling in my heart for a while, and it’s about…everything. You already know the basics, I scroll on Instagram, giggle at TikToks, maybe post something funny on my WhatsApp status. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a whole world you haven’t explored, and maybe, just maybe, you don’t truly understand.
Imagine craving a hug, not from you, but from hundreds, thousands of strangers online. Every like is a pat on the back, every follower is a whispered “you’re okay.” Social media is this crazy dopamine machine, feeding on my insecurities and making me chase validation. I post, refresh, and analyze every comment, searching for approval in likes and hearts. It’s addictive, terrifying, and it makes my heart race faster than a hummingbird’s wings.
And then there’s the anxiety, the constant buzz in the background. I’m afraid of missing something, of being left out. I scroll mindlessly, chasing trends, chasing laughter, chasing anything to escape the quiet of my own thoughts. It’s a never-ending cycle, and the screen becomes my prison, my escape, and my tormentor all at once.
But the worst part, the thing that truly scares me, is the darkness lurking beneath the surface. It is cyberbullying. It is the fear that scum will use me as their target to spew their hatred and anger. But it gets even worse than that. The fear of falling into someone’s trap, of someone using my vulnerabilities against me. We hear stories about extortion, about predators hiding behind friendly faces. And the worst part? I’d be too scared to tell you.
I think you wouldn’t understand, that you’d blame me, take away my phone, my lifeline. I bury the fear deep, pretending everything’s okay, because the alternative feels worse. I’d rather face the monsters online than face the disappointment in your eyes.
I know you love me, you wouldn’t hurt a fly. But please, try to see it from my eyes. This digital world is real to me, it’s raw, and it shapes me more than you know. Please take an interest in it. Don’t judge me, don’t lecture me, just…listen.
Be there for me. Validate me, even when you don’t understand. Listen to my concerns and difficulties, even when you might disagree. I want to know that I can always turn to you for assistance. You tell me that, but when it comes to things online, I don’t feel that I can at this point.
I get it, you didn’t grow up with Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat or any of the many other social media platforms. You were never cyberbullied as a kid, turned into a meme or kicked out of a WhatsApp group.
But you’ve been my parents my whole life. You know kindness, you know warmth, you know validation, you know support, you know how to listen.
Even when I’m struggling with those things you don’t truly yet understand, you still know how to help.
Showing interest in my online activity is showing interest in me. I want to know and feel that you’re here for me. Even when the issues are online.
You might not be on Instagram and TikTok with me, but by showing me your love and support, I know that I’m not alone when it comes to these social media platforms.
And that is more important to me than any like or DM.
Your loving (and confused) child