For any student, teacher or parent with at least a nagging concern about the effects of social media, read James McWilliams’s article “Saving the Self in the Age of the Selfie” in the spring 2016 edition of The American Scholar. It is deeply relevant for those of us in boarding schools in particular because we have more resources than perhaps any other setting to help students develop the “strongly anchored identity” and “deeper sense of self” that McWilliams encourages us to pay attention to, if we’re intentional about it.
McWilliams identifies the ways that digitization undermines identity and self but the challenge for those of us who live and work with high school students is even steeper than McWilliams thinks–most students, at least in the modern world, don’t particularly care about developing a sense of self, and they didn’t even before smartphones. It’s our job, as teachers and parents, to plant the seeds that help them care and then nurture them along that path. McWilliams’s essay is a great guide for that.