#SorryNotSorry: Competition, social media helps create selfish, apathetic teenagers

The same girl who was a shoulder to cry on is now scrolling through her Twitter feed and rolling her eyes at her friend’s dramatics. Earlier that day, she was content to listen as her friend sobbed over her breakup. Now, distanced from the immediate situation by time, unshared grief and two glowing phones, she resents her friend’s eagerness to share her sadness with the world.

I don’t care. Frankly, it’s frightening how frequently these words are said daily. However, the context in which these words are used is even more disheartening. Teenagers consistently invalidate others’ feelings, spurn responsibility and disrespect their parents with the aid of social media platforms and society’s acceptance of gossip.

With the overwhelming influence of social media in our lives, teenagers are presented with overly emotional accounts and apathetic statements in equal amounts. While a bitter teenager proclaims his indifference (#idgaf), it becomes obvious the only thing he cares about is not caring (#sorrynotsorry). And it can be hard to care: when you’ve seen the recesses of a brokenhearted teenager’s mind 20 times over, you stop responding to it.

Though emotional attachments do not make teens care, one thing continues to pique their interest in each other: performance. Competition- in school, sports and social situations- is the element that makes people selfishly curious about others.

We are taught to put ourselves first. We practice extra hours to become better than both our rivals and our own teammates. We choose not to share information for the fear that someone else will use it, and they will use it better. We are selfish with our talent and our time. The pressure to perform well athletically, academically and socially destroys our empathy, and we become too concerned with our own successes to worry ourselves about our peers’ struggles.

When people do worry about the performance of others, it is to gossip. The struggling student is asking too many dumb questions. That star athlete is a coach’s pet. People only talk to her because they like her older brother. The talk is destructive and used by people to make themselves feel as if they have an advantage, when they aren’t even in the same competition. It’s a way to displace stress and self-esteem issues, which would diminish if gossip wasn’t a force that hurt everyone it touched. Each time a person degrades another, he is forcing himself to be compared with the man he just discredited, and in turn he must question himself.

Even aid to others has become a destructive competition. Friendship is an investment and an identity, where one gives time and confidence to another in exchange for the title of “best” friend. Awards and recognition are given to those who complete the most hours doing community service. Even in NHS, comprised of top students and volunteers, there are members who complete minimum hours to keep the status they can put on a college application. There are others who forge hours when applying for scholarships, and all members are aware of the advantage community service experience gives you when writing application essays. The goal is to be a good person- and there is still a competition for who is better and who is best.


So why should you care? Time and time again, people have given up on others, claiming they can’t make other people care. Teachers may stop compromising with the difficult student in the back row. Friends may give up on giving comfort. Parents may dismiss their children as moody teenagers. This apathy is expected and accepted, but it shouldn’t be. People are responsible for caring about one another. However, they are also responsible for being people worthy of being cared about, by being people of substance rather than shallowness, and empathy rather than apathy.

Forgive the dramatics, triviality and occasional cruelty of others. Concern yourself with their hardships and worries, with no ulterior motives aside from caring. Understand that competition is forced upon us as a society- our lifestyle, economy and system of thought are based around the idea that competition brings out the best of everything. Understand that it is not competition, but compassion, that brings out the best in people.