Talkin’ Bout Their Generation

Last semester my Media Literacy students took part in the Show Us Your Generation photo contest run by The New York Times; even though the contest has closed, I still wanted this semester’s students to create their own photos and “artist statements.”

The images and words below are used by permission of the students.

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My generation has fully immersed itself into the world of social media. Our worlds revolve around streaks, tweets, DMs, and notifications. We hold our future world in our hands and it is up to us what we do with it. The fact that it is up to my generation, who is “holding” this fragile ball we live on, what happens to our world means we have to face a harsh reality. This harsh reality being my generation only sees things like social media in color and the rest is in black and white, or irrelevant to us. —Megan

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When I first thought about what I wanted my picture to be about, I couldn’t think of anything off the bat— but later on I was hanging with friends and one of them told me, “Von I heard so much about how your a bogus person and did people dirty and honestly you’re not like that at all, goes to show people will talk bad on anybody.” And that really stuck to me and it made me think how this generation judges people so much about what’s on the outside or what they hear about someone, and really you never know the true nature of a person until you read them, get to know them, do more than just assume, I know it’s pretty cliche, but it should be a lesson everyone should take part in and to not judge a book by its cover—you don’t know someone else’s story, so why should you assume you do? —Von

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I took this picture of my sister. She is in eighth grade, she is almost fourteen, and she loves her phone. There are four main reasons why I chose this picture.  First, I chose her to be in my picture because she is always on her phone or some other device. I can really tell that things have changed in middle school since I have been there because I never had as many cyber bullies, or rumors, or people getting made fun of because of what they post. Second, I took this picture because it gets our attention about how the internet is taking over our lives. Many people have more than one device. My sister has an IPhone, Apple Watch, computer, and IPod. Third, because she just got out of the shower and she was already on her phone before she brushed her hair. The fourth reason is that our dog Daisy was trying to get her attention before I took this picture but my sister ignored her. —Abby 


This photo speaks volumes of both how we have advanced as a society but also how those advancements can consume us. In the picture, you see two high school students back to back emotionless doing their work. In the background, you see an empty library that is no longer relevant due to the investments we have made to online learning and our research tools that are now available. You can see that this is both a good and bad thing because the work is easier, but doesn’t that also mean people are getting lazier? Also, technology can be used to help them be more social but it’s just facing two friends away from each other until their desire for screen time is met. —Jaxon

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In 2019, teenagers of my generation are misjudged for not having a voice, but I believe my photo depicts these misconceptions. Even though I could have done a whole shot with multiple people, I chose to do a selfie with duct tape because it shows that we have a voice and aren’t going to be silent anymore. The duct tape itself represents that the tape is used to shut people up because they don’t want to hear their reasons or complaints.  Also, I decided to do a selfie because it still shows that teens do take photos of themselves to express their thoughts and feelings. I decided to edit it in black and white because it is usually the older generations that silence or create those stereotypes. As for the message, I want it to say that teens do have a voice in this world. For me, I always tell myself to express my feelings and thoughts because it could help someone in the future. I am involved in the newspaper, so that means I can express my beliefs. With the photo, this shows that people have thoughts to express, but they hold them in because social media or others tell us that we are less than. As our generation becomes more vocal, others will start to accept our views and beliefs. —Emerald


When I took the picture we are all sitting around each other and not communicating because we all have technology, we all have cell phones, so instead of communicating, we were all buried in our phones ignoring everyone and everything around us. We had books around us, we had computers, and we also had each other. I feel that many people with technology and phones are doing this—there is a whole other world in the screen of the phone, a world no one can interrupt when you are really concentrated with your phone. —Nethaniel

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In this picture, my older sister, her boyfriend, and I are all laughing at a meme. I’ve learned that one of the only ways to start a conversation with my peers is to show them or send them a meme. I don’t remember what meme she showed us, but I do remember us laughing and talking about it for a long time afterward. A couple minutes before taking this picture, none of us were talking to each other. We were in our own little worlds, sitting and staring at our devices. In my opinion, this picture and the story behind it represents a part of our generation. If we find something funny, we share it with each other.  —Vanessa

Show Us Your Generation Photo and -Artist-s Statement.- (Mar 26- 2019 at 11-55 AM)

When I thought of my generation, I thought of all the negative connotations we have. I almost folded into that and made a high contrast black and white picture where only my phone was lit up. However, I see the positives in us, and I’m proud of the generation I’m a part of. We care. I genuinely see my generation as the most progressive generation ever seen, as we should be. With that in mind, we also care about who and what we came from. My picture is me on a bench and under my arm immortalized in a plaque is the name Shirley Kirsch. It’s important to me because I never got to meet my grandma Shirley. She died at 48 more than a decade before I was born She means a lot to me still, and that’s why I chose it. She has influenced me without meeting me. I have her initials on my cleats; I do things to honor the ones I love, and I love my grandma without knowing her. —Carson

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Growing up, our generation realizes that we need to look more and more like a stereotypical human. People start to change their hair, clothes, and personality to look and act like their role model or idol. They start to discriminate against themselves, making them believe they aren’t enough. Our generation is so used to judging—people turn to social media to see how one should look and act like. —Abby

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She was sitting in classes and I decided to take a picture of her while she was using her phone because I think our generation is constantly on a cell phone. Many teenagers spend hours and hours on their phones as if that were all of their lives. This is my idea of ​​the generation in which we are living, I think that we all spend a lot of our time on our phones today. We teenagers know that we spend time on that but even so we can not stop because it is something we have become accustomed to. We have become accustomed to living with a phone in our hands as if our phones were the solution to all problems. But the reality is that phones are the biggest of our problems because we can rarely have the attention of people. —Marie

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As a teenager, you are required to fit certain criteria. You have to do what other people do and dress a certain way. My picture shows a very pretty girl wearing a sweatshirt and leggings, standing by a poster. The poster reads, “Strangely enough, some students come in here to put crap into their bodies.” This means that in our generation, there are certain kinds of pressure. The pressure to be cool and liked, and the poster means that there are some students coming in the bathrooms to juul or vape. There is a lot of pressure to be popular.  —Molly

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Honestly, I think the media portrays my generation correctly. A lot of people like to think that the media is too hard on us and “don’t get it,” but that actually isn’t true. My generation relies almost solely on technology for everything. I took a picture of me listening to music while on my phone while searching the web on my Chromebook. I think that picture describes our generation perfectly. I will admit, I am obsessed with technology as much as everyone else, but I accept that. I bet a lot of other people’s representation of our generation will be doing them doing something productive, or something without technology to show that they think the media isn’t right about how they describe our generation. Being a teenager in this generation is based on technology for the most part. If you don’t know something, look it up; if you want to talk to someone, text them, snap them, DM them. People have done away from the real-life experiences that past generations have used and I think that is a rising problem. —Tory

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I took this picture to show what I do in my free time—it’s not sitting inside on the web, it’s outside working on vehicles, driving my older vehicle or just messing around in the woods. I used to be addicted to my phone, but now I’ve matured and I don’t care if I lose my phone. People know how to get ahold of me and if you don’t then there is probably a reason for it. I get on my phone during the school but when I get home I use it for one thing and that is to look up diagrams for wiring or diagrams for a vehicle or part that I’m working on. I will use my phone as a flashlight but a lot of people will tease me that I got an old iPhone. Well they all have brand new phones, and I just tell them if I drop it, it won’t break and that it fits in my pocket. Then they normally shut up and walk away. —Tyler

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This picture represents the use of technology in my generation. Everything around us is technology. For example, whenever I’m doing my homework, I have my phone by my side, and I usually get sidetracked by the Snapchat notifications. Computers are also used by everyone in the school, from just checking emails to doing homework. —Maddi

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Athletes nowadays have a lot to juggle if they plan on going to college to play sports. We athletes have a lot of expectations when it comes to on and off the field. On the field the athlete has to show up and show out; they’re put on that lineup because of their skills and if they mess up one time, they’re more than likely replaced. If they want to keep the skill, they have to practice and put extra work in. They also need to get bigger and show dominance so they go to the weight room and give all they got every single rep. Off the field is where the most challenging part comes. Staying focused in class, doing homework and staying up late for tests the next day is all in an athlete’s schedule.  Overall people think it’s easy to juggle the schedule we have when in reality it’s one of the hardest things an athlete goes through.  —Marcus

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I decided to capture the reality of my life specifically because to me this is what teenage life is like. For those who want to use this to show that teenagers don’t spend an extreme amount of time on electronics, I’m definitely not the right person to advocate for that. I spend a copious amount of time on electronics every day, and that’s just what I wanted to show. I think this photo actually represents teenagers as a whole when disputing the idea that we aren’t glued to electronics. The monitor mounted on the wall has a fish tank on the screen, while the lower monitor shows the home screen of an Xbox. A lot of us try to give the impression that we spend more time outdoors than anywhere else, or we enjoy connecting with nature on a daily basis, but in reality, it always comes back to technology in the end. Hence, I had nature in my photo, but it was captured within technology because overall technology controls everything in the current day. I had the second monitor with my Xbox screen to show that I realize that I am a perfect fit for the teenage stereotype. But, that stereotype isn’t the only dimension of my personality. I have friends, we interact on a daily basis almost constantly with Snapchat and other platforms. It just so happens that we as teenagers have access to something that allows easier connection with friends. —Levi

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There are so many struggles when it comes to being a teenager in 2019. One of many includes doing good in school and balancing that with social media. Every teenager in 2019 wants to be considered ‘cool’ on social media and wants to be associated with the ‘cool people’ on social media. Balancing school work with also struggling with how to be cool and how to have a life, when your phone is constantly blowing up with notifications is truly hard. I find myself struggle with this all of the time. Whether it’s a Snapchat from a friend or a quick Facetime call, there are always ways for your friends to contact you or ‘bother’ you when your time should be spent doing other more important things. Another struggle that most teenagers have is how to spend less time on social media to keep parents happy, but at the same time keep a high status on social media. Being able to balance your ‘high’ status on social media, and trying to keep parents off your butt for being on your phone too much is truly a struggle. We as teens always feel like we have to be in ‘the know’ and updated with everything that’s going on in the world of social media. These are few of the many struggles that parents and people who aren’t teenagers in 2019 don’t always fully understand. —Kena

One thought on “Talkin’ Bout Their Generation

  1. Dear Media Literacy students- I want you to know that I read each of your pieces and admired your photos. What an exceptional job you have all done with your reflections. I am very torn as an educational leader when it comes to finding that balance of technology use in education. I am curious to know what ideas you have to help teachers help you with learning how to be less dependent on technology for socializing and learn more about the educational applications. I believe we have only scratched the surface. Kudos to all of you and thanks to Mr. Polking for giving you this opportunity to put yourselves out there. Love the photo- reflection connection. Mrs. McKenzie


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