When I left NY to go to college in the south, I got to reinvent myself and I loved it! While living in the South I became an expert in the usage of “y’all” and nobody questioned my East Coast roots. This ability to grow from high school kid to young adult without labels sadly is no longer a wide-open door for starting over.
Most of our kids have established their online persona through social media profiles by the end of high school. This information is available to anyone with Google and it never truly goes away. Even if your teens are keeping their social media profiles clean for college admissions staff, they are still labeling themselves to some extent …
The athlete, the science whiz, the funny girl.
This can create challenges when your audience changes, say, when you leave high school for college. “Before social media we all went to college and we started again. There was this wonderful developmental reset button,” says Dr. Lisa Damour. “Now the past never goes away.”
While it’s great for our kids to find an identity, it’s also important for them to understand that they don’t have to be that thing forever. Back in the stone ages before the internet, we had the chance to recreate ourselves from one life phase to the next — high school, college and adult life could bring different labels appropriate for each stage. (I personally miss my overly serious young professional stage. “Fake” wire-framed glasses and all.
There are so many facets of social media that we as parents need to coach our kids through — safety, bullying, oversharing, being real — it’s a little overwhelming to add another element to the list. But we know that everyone needs a chance at a fresh start once in a while, and it’s so important to our kids’ development to be able to leave some old labels behind.
You can help your teens make this transition in real life, but you can’t erase those old Insta accounts. So how can we help our kids reinvent themselves in this world of permanent pasts?
I wish I knew a magic trick for erasing those old posts and pics, but it’s going to come down to confidence.
Take Kim Kardashian. Love her or NOT, she is the queen of reinvention. She was originally known only as Paris Hilton’s assistant. Then there was the infamous leaked tape. She would have been totally justified in hiding her head in the sand and living an anonymous life. Now she’s one of the most followed celebrities across all social media platforms, one of the highest paid reality TV stars and she’s a mother. Talk about a major turnaround!
Hopefully our children won’t be reinventing themselves after such dramatic and public former personas, but Kim K is a great example of someone who decided she was ready to shed the old and bring on the new. Her secret (besides an army of photographers, publicists and stylists)? She believed she was what she wanted to be. She came out with bravery and confidence and showed us the new Kim, over and over. That’s the type of boldness our girls will need to reinvent themselves.
And, hey, even if those pics of your girl as an awkward tween show up when she’s a senior in college, she can be proud of how far she’s come.