Diary

A new kind of social networking app or site for teens?

The following is a random idea I had to create an app for teens called WHO-R-U.   I realized there’s apps for adults to hook up like tinder, but there’s no social networking sites or apps aimed directly at teens.  I was reading this article , and I had a sudden realization.   Obviously today’s teens are struggling with their identities for a number of reasons such as:   not having a stable family and two parents, being increasingly isolated and reliant on technology, being on prescription drugs that mess with their brain chemistry, having junk food diets, not having good roles models to emulate, and most importantly not having a moral foundation and not being taught values and belonging to a religion and being part of a faith community.

Nothing can take the place of those parents and social supports, but maybe we can at least give these teens the tools to start dealing with the identity crisis the above factors have created for them, or at the very least an outlet for them to talk about it with fellow teens who might have a lot in common with them but who they would never meet in person (like tinder this app would show where teens with similar issues/interests are in your area if you make friends on the app).  As far as I know there’s no social network for teens that goes beyond the superficial styles of instagram and twitter.

This would be a different kind of social network because rather than forcing teens to make it all about themselves for the sake of vanity, it would add a philosophical/intellectual dimension to social networking that would force the users of the app to improve themselves and their habits and to LEARN about what’s missing from their lives and what they can do to make their own life and the lives of others richer and more meaningful. So it’s not all about them, it’s about their connection to others in similar circumstances or who have shared interests or problems.  It takes the focus off of themselves and puts it on a community made up of groups of people with these shared interests and situations.  It could be seen as an attempt to digitally recreate the small-town neighborhoods and local communities of the past in this country where all the families were intact and everyone knew everyone else’s kids.

I know that when I was a teen I was completely lost. I didn’t know who I was, what my goals and purpose in life was, or where I was going. I didn’t have a stable family to guide me on those things, and I badly needed guidance.  At the very least I needed a sense of community and friends who I could relate to who could understand what I was going through and develop bonds with.

In other words, I needed people to help me create my identity and fill in the missing puzzle pieces in my mind and heart, to shape me into the man I’m meant to be.  I believe this is why so many teens are not only getting tattoos, but also watching porn, playing role playing/violent video games, spending hours on social networks, and spending time on all kinds of superficial things like shopping, entertainment, etc.  They’re trying to fill the voids in their lives, the missing role models, the lack of identity, the lack of affirmation by loving parents, the lack of having a purpose, a passion(s), and meaning in their lives.

Hopefully an app like this would at least point them in the right direction and get them to start thinking about what’s missing in their lives and what changes they need to start making such as: who in their lives needs to stay, who needs to go, and who needs to be invited in; what habits they need to stop, which ones they should develop, and what things they need to learn about or how to do.  The motto of WHO-R-U would be: WHO-R-U- a social networking site that’s about more than social networking. (It’s about learning new things and helping you become the person you’re meant to be, the best version of you, and helping others become the best versions of themselves too.) Now there’s a revolutionary idea.

This app would be set up with big circles with a question in each circle and an arrow leading from that circle to a statement about it.  The following questions would be in the circles, with statements following each question:   What are your beliefs about God, religion, humanity, our purpose, science and technology, etc? —> If you don’t have any, develop some.  If you have some, develop them more by discussing/debating them with others.

What careers are you interested in?  Medicine, art, sports, science, technology, trades, law, sales, engineering, and more (add categories that aren’t already listed).  Why are you interested in them? – ——> Meet people who already have those careers and talk to fellow teens who are also interested in the career you’re interested in.  What are your passions?   Science, art, sports, writing, reading, travelling, meeting new people, learning new things?   – – —->   Share them and learn new ones.

What are your hobbies and pastimes?  Entertainment, skills, etc. —>  compare and contrast with others.  What are your strengths?  What are your weaknesses?  Be 100% honest or don’t bother sharing anything, that’s the only way we can learn from each other and learn about ourselves and grow as people. —->share with others.   What are you doing to help others on a regular basis, if anything?  Why are you engaged in this habit or behavior?  What are you doing to hurt others on a regular basis, if anything?  Why are you engaged in this habit or behavior?  – – – -> Again, be 100% honest, you won’t be judged for it because this site is strictly moderated and only criticism in the form of constructive advice is tolerated.

What is your family situation like?  Is it having a positive or negative impact on your studies at school and on your emotional and spiritual well being?  Explain why in either case. —-> In this forum it’s ok to leave out names and certain details that are either too difficult to discuss or would cause unnecessary conflict within your family.  But try to share as much as possible because you never know who might be reading your post who’s going through a similar situation and needs to know they aren’t alone.  You could even make friends and create bonds based on these shared experiences.

Finally, WHO-R-U would employ an entire staff of both paid and volunteer contributors who would act as mentors to any teens who need help, advice, a positive role model, or just someone who will care about them and listen.  Each mentor would be assigned to a group based on their unique talents, knowledge, and life history that best fits them.  Some mentors might be part of multiple groups.  Any adult over the age of 18 could sign up to be a mentor on this site, provided they go through an intensive vetting process first to prevent abuse and predatory behavior.

Then, teens who are part of certain groups can ask questions to the mentors and have private conversations with them, and even exchange contact info if they choose to do so.  They could then meet up with the mentor in person if they’re comfortable doing so, and the mentoring process could be continued in person, which is actually preferred over the online version.   An example of how this would work: an adult who’s a doctor signs up to be a mentor and is assigned to the group with the circle that says “careers” and is in the subgroup for teens who are interested in going into medicine.  He then answers questions from those teens about what it takes to be a doctor, etc, but also can get to know some of them on a personal level and mentor them one on one.

Likewise, an adult who’s a former drug addict would be assigned to the group “what are your weaknesses” and would help counsel teens who are currently struggling with drug addiction, or an adult who grew up in a single parent family or with foster parents would be assigned to the group “what is your family situation like?” and would talk to and mentor teens who are currently growing up in those circumstances, giving them both practical advice and inspiration, since they survived it and became a successful adult.  The goal of this social network is for teens to meet both fellow teens who are sincerely looking to improve their lives and meet like-minded people, and mentors whose dual missions are to be the positive influence in the lives of these teens they might not have had growing up and to bring out the full potential in them and helping to form their identity.

With the opportunity to meet both of these groups of people, I believe this app could change the lives of some of today’s teens for the better and give them the sense of direction, identity, confidence, and purpose they were looking for all along without even knowing it.  The promotional material would include a paragraph like the following:

Know a teen who’s having problems in their life or just doesn’t really fit into the situation(s) they’ve been placed in life?  Tell them about WHO-R-U, it could save their life by allowing them to meet people who have their best interests at heart.   For all the teens who are tired of facebook and twitter and of seeing the same old boring pictures and superficial posts, who want more from a social network and who believe deep down there’s more to life than just being popular and fitting in with the cool kids, sign up today.  Be a part of something new and exciting, cause we’re changing the way people look at and use social networks, and the internet in general.

Facebook is like just a digital version of the niches in high school, with the kids who are different or not as confident being left out and not having as many friends as the cool kids. WHO-R-U IS the school itself, a digital version of it, where you get to avoid the uncomfortable interactions with the kids who don’t understand or like you and get to meet interesting teens who share interests with you or at least think about things in a similar way to you.  The key is that you’re in complete control of your destiny and of who you interact with.  It’s your choice.  You have the freedom to look for people who will enrich your life and help you become a better person.

But you have to first want to be that better version of yourself, and then you have to start the work meeting those people and having those conversations.  Nobody ever said it will always be easy or comfortable, but then again, growing and changing never is. But it can also be fun, stimulating, exciting, and rewarding along the way.  That’s what we hope to provide for you here at WHO-R-U, and it’s all just one click of the mouse away.

Who are you?  Who do you wanna be?  Where do you wanna go?  What do you want to do?  Our goal is to help you meet the people who will help you start to answer those questions.  Just ask yourself the question, who are you?  If you aren’t satisfied with the answer or don’t have one at all, as many teens don’t, then this network was created for you.  We happily await the arrival of your unique talents, knowledge, personality, and insights to our network.

This is just a silly idea I had, I don’t expect to actually do anything with it, but at least maybe it can get people thinking about the way we spend our time online and the effect social networks are having on our teens, and if there’s anything we can do to improve or change those habits.