My Reflections on a Talk on Adolescent Relationships and Social Media
By: Jesu Salvador
It was on a busy Monday morning on January 25, 2016 when I found myself accompanying Dr. Chris Carandang on his way to his talk in KEYS school Manila in Mandaluyong. Helping Dr. Chris out by documenting his talk was part of my training as an intern for MLAC. As we arrived in the school, we were cordially greeted by a few teachers, who then led us to a classroom filled with a bunch of eager and enthusiastic teenage students. The sight of young students in their school uniforms chitchatting in their seats breathed an air of nostalgia. It was a sight all too familiar. As the students began to settle down, Chris and I began to set-up.
The talk that Chris prepared for was about adolescent relationships and social media, probably the most relatable talk you could give to an audience like this. I sat unobtrusively in one corners of the small classroom in order to get a good view of both the students and the speaker. Dr. Chris started things off by introducing a short interactive activity called mirroring. The premise was simple; students would be paired off and would take turns imitating the movements of their partner. As the class stood and began with the activity, I took the opportunity to assume the role of an observer. Some students used animated and large gestures, extending their arms or legs, or protruding the features of their faces. A few stood there making very subtle movements, not so much as a twitch here and there. Later on, Dr. Chris would explain that the whole idea of mirroring is essentially what happens in our relationships. Each of us are free to act as we want, but at the same time, we may find ourselves reflecting the actions of others. How we are and what we do affect the people we know and they do the same things towards us. With the audience’s attention captured and their energy levels still high, Dr. Chris began with a simple opening question: What do you think of when you hear the words adolescent and teenager? Like bullets, the students of KEYS shot their answers unabashed, blurting words such as “problems”, “angst”, “procrastination”, and “hormones”. I knew where they were coming from, being in their shoes not too long ago. It was something real to them because it was them. Dr. Chris gave his one two cents on what those words meant to him by using a famous quote from David Bowie that went “turn and face the strange ch-ch-change”. The line seemed to resonate well with the young audience, who in all likelihood were experiencing their fair share of strange changes.
Relationships, especially the ones we form during our adolescence, require a lot of care and understanding. Dr. Chris pointed out some of the basic psychological needs (based on his mother, Dr. Ma. Lourdes A. Carandang’s framework) that should be present in any relationship such as love, acceptance, and significance. With peer pressure and personal insecurities adamant and the constant desire to fit in so strong in adolescents, the importance of being valued for who you are can really have a positive, and even defining impact. But Dr. Chris elaborated that truly healthy relationships should actively be worked on. While it is key to feel significant and accepted, it is equality important to listen and to be listened to. An open communication is always a good way to resolve issues or to clarify things that may be easily misconstrued. With the prevalence of social media in our lives today, we also should be able to learn to pause and to think. Dr. Chris also mentioned that keeping a journal or a blog, and dabbling into the arts are great ways to deal with the struggles adolescents may find themselves in.
Perhaps, another thing that was mentioned as a way to help ground us was mindfulness. Dr. Chris explained mindfulness as being aware of what is going on. This could go from simply monitoring your breathing patterns, or even paying attention to how exactly you wash the dishes at home. When we become mindful, we are able to pause and to enjoy the present moment, perhaps realizing something you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t. As a way to end to the session, Dr. Chris invited the class to participate in a short mindfulness activity. Together, the students closed their eyes and took deep slow breaths while Dr. Chris conducted the exercise. Some students were completely at ease, others looked like they had fallen asleep, while a few had difficulty keeping still. It was a new experience but something I felt the students were at least open to trying.
Now finished with the presentation, the students were given the opportunity to ask questions, and boy did they ask them. I could tell that the things they asked were concerns deeply related to their lives, even if they didn’t say so outright. One boy asked, “how do you make sure a relationship will last?” to which Dr. Chris responded that maintaining communication was key. Other concerns arose such as identifying the distinguishing factors of online and face-to-face interactions, and why was it that people close to us end up hurting us? Dr. Chris provided very insightful answers to each question, providing a perspective that meticulously considered all aspects of the premise. The very core of his answers centered on the values of trust, respect, love, and understanding. Yet, what struck me more was not much the awe-inspiring answers, but the students who were asking the questions. More and more quizzical faces were found and equally as many hands were raised as if their curiosity could never be satiated.
Despite the surplus of questions, the Q&A session had to end abruptly due to a lack of time. Still before parting ways, Dr. Chris brought out a black Fender acoustic guitar so he could perform his original composition. The folk inspired piece drew praises from the attentive ears inside the classroom (some went as far as asking for his autograph).
As Dr. Chris and I packed up and said our goodbyes to the hospitable students and teachers, I couldn’t help but feel energized myself. While the target audiences for this talk were mainly teenagers in the peak of their adolescence, I felt that the lessons shared would still hold water for older audiences. It’s because people never really stop needing love, respect, and acceptance. Nor do we ever stop needing someone to listen to us or to help us through advice or disciple. The talk Dr. Chris gave at KEYS school Manila was a great reminder or those simple, yet essential things. Hopefully, those young kids take the advice to heart and learn to foster future relationships that they’ll never forget.
Photos c/o Jesu Salvador