The teenagers in my classroom today, dubbed iGen by Jean Twenge, are remarkably different from previous generations.1 Specifically, this is a generation that does not know a world without smartphones and social media. This unit seeks to investigate the possible impact social media has on identity formation and its effects on self-esteem, risk-taking, and relationship building. Twenge argues that “understanding iGen means understanding the future for us all.”2 This argument serves as the foundation for this unit. In understanding the relationship that the iGen has with social media and the effects that it potentially has on feelings of self-worth, perhaps teachers can find more effective ways to engage with their students in the classroom. I plan to use my research on the iGen to create a unit that guides my students on a journey of self-reflection that asks them to consider how feelings of unworthiness block the full use of their voices and creativity in the theatre space.
Improvisational exercises are a popular way for students to build skills in theatre. Through improvisation, students practice taking risks and trusting their creative instincts. For improvisational games to be a success, all students must be willing to participate. Students must trust that their peers will not judge their performances. All of this requires a level of vulnerability.
My role in this process is crucial. It is my job to create and maintain a safe space for exploration. Over the past few years, I have found this increasingly difficult to control. My students doubt themselves more and more. My conjecture is that habitual use of social media is lowering the self-esteem of my students through relentless comparisons to others. Feelings of self-doubt build emotional blocks within my students that inhibit the free flow of creative expression through the voice and body.
This unit asks my students to explore their relationships with social media and question how it may impact their ability to tap into the creative impulses that help them to develop as theatre artists.
By the end of this unit, my hope is that students will:
- understand that the way they approach the world is different from previous generations and what that means for them3
- examine how they spend their time online
- develop healthier relationships with the digital world and
- create autobiographical theatre pieces that express the interconnection between their lives onlineand in reality.