The 12-year-old Frankenstein
In my book The Frankenstein Condition, I explain how we create these destructive creatures from pieces of the people around us. All of the best traits, stitched together creating a destructive force that we judge ourselves against. Like Victor we all have created our own Frankenstein monster. Although initially intended for adults I discovered there are far too many young people with monsters.
I was recently on vacation doing some writing, when a young girl approached me. She came over and asked if I was writing in my diary. I smiled and said no, I was writing my book.
“Wow! What’s it about?” Her eyes wide.
“It’s about making monsters.” I replied.
Her expression changed. A frown appeared on her brow. Now, at this point I could have bailed and told her that I was kidding and that it was actually about ponies. But I saw this as an opportunity. My book uses a rather macabre approach to describe stress, anxiety and self-esteem, how could I explain it to a 12-year-old (without using ponies)? Would the concept still resonate? Or would she run to her parents and tell them about the man with a monster diary. This could go wrong quickly, but I was curious.
“Ok… So, imagine you are on Facebook and see a post by a friend. She is all made up with a new hairstyle and looks super pretty. The next post is another friend who is showing off a new dress. She looks pretty too. Another one shows a friend who has a new gaming system. Super cool. You stop scrolling. Your brain takes all of these things and sticks them together. Now you have a girl your age with a pretty haircut, a new dress and a gaming system. You might be a little upset.”
“Why don’t I have all of those things?”
She looked at me and said in a low voice. “Yeah, I totally do that.”
So, I continue.
I explain that she’s created a monster by comparing herself to others. Looking at what they own or how they look.
“You’ve made a Frankenstein monster out of those parts. You want her dress, a new haircut and a gaming system… but are they all the same person or did you stick these things together? So, the girl with the nice dress doesn’t have a new hair cut or gaming system, right? Is it fair that one person should have all of the things that three people have put together?”
“Yeah!, I totally get it.” She exclaimed.
This was an important moment for me. I realized this is something that affects kids as well. It was an opportunity to test the theory and see if this would resonate with someone younger and – to my surprise – it did.
I guess this is a good news, bad news scenario. Good because I can help, bad because it exists. If you think back, you may remember the fear of gossip at school. People talking about you during school breaks, passing notes and whispering. Multiply that by thousands and thousands. That’s what a kid is going through today.
So, imagine, what will their Frankenstein look like? And how can we put in effort to curb their fears and anxieties of not being enough. Of wanting to be like others.
I am not a reactionary so this isn’t about banning smart phones or creating a police state around technology. But remember as a kid maybe seeing your parent, relative or other influential adult smoking. They would, of course tell you that it is unhealthy and you shouldn’t do it. Did that stop us? No, because they were hypocrites. Even kids get that. Smartphone and on-line engagement is the same. This is about appropriate use and demonstrating the time and place. These kids see and absorb, so lead by example. If you have kids try this, it will even work if you don’t. When it is dinner time, bed time, family time, turn off your phone and put it away. Show them that there is a time and a place. Have a spot on the kitchen counter that all the devices go at night to charge. INCLUDING YOURS. Try it for a week, you may be surprised by how freeing it is.