Americans Are Acting Like Spoiled Teenagers

We are all struggling in some way during this pandemic.  Some more than others.  As my buddy Bill Petrie said in a great blog he wrote “We are all in the same storm.  But we are not in the same boat.”  Some of us are honestly sick.  Many are working on the front lines, tired and stressed.  But many more Americans are fine…and just bored.

And so, it’s been a little troubling to me that many of us have responded like we are teenagers who have been grounded.  But not like teenagers who are REALLY being punished.  We still have our phones, our television and our password to Netflix!

As far as I can tell, many Americans, (who have clearly never REALLY had to struggle) are reverting to their spoiled teenage years.  You can tell by what they say.  See if you can recognize a few things you are seeing on social media.

“I don’t care what you say.  I do what I want!”

When leaders in the government came out and alerted the public that this virus was a real threat, the message was pretty clear (at least from states).  This virus can be deadly.  In order to slow the spread, we need to stay at least 6 feet apart from one another.  We also needed to stay at home so we could “flatten the curve.”

Everyone was frustrated by this.  I know I was.  It affected our social lives, our plans and even the economy.  So naturally, a percentage of people gathered in a large group, closely together, in a public place (with rifles).  Awesome.

When you understand how the spread of any virus works, most reasonable people can agree this is not the best strategy.  But as spoiled teenagers would do, we snuck out our bedroom window to do it anyway.  Well done.

“I don’t believe what my teachers and parents…no matter what they say!”

I remember this clearly in high school.  No matter what the Vice Principal said, it was dumb.  My parents did not know what they were talking about.  And because I was SO unique, no adults seemed to understand me!  I see this clearly on social media right now.  Every day, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine comes out to address the public with new updates and mandates.  DeWine has widely been regarded as a leader in handling the crisis, and is respected nationwide.  But that does not stop armchair quarterbacks from questioning his every move.

In addition to this lack of faith in leadership, we seem to want to argue with everything.  (Do you have a natural reaction to say “No we don’t?”)

A friend of mine recently posted an article where he said that it “changed his thinking on masks.”  I know he was reticent about sharing it for fear it would cause an argument, but he thought it would be informative for those willing to read it.  But one commenter said “I did not read the article, but I don’t agree.”  Oh, for crying out loud!  That leads nicely to…

“I don’t want to do my homework!”

In the interest of self-disclosure, I struggled with this as a student.  I did not always want to do the work.  A lot of teenagers were like that.  But I hope that I have evolved as an adult.  That does not seem to be the case with many Americans.  We freely share and post memes and vides that we have done nothing to verify.

Then we get all bent out of shape when they are removed.  I see people all over social media complaining that their posts have been taken down and claiming that Facebook, or the Government (or the Man) is violating Free Speech.  Jeesh.

First, if you have ever posted something and it has been taken down because it has been determined as “completely false,” please take a moment and pause.  This is not “the man” bringing you down.  If anything, they are doing you a favor.  You not only look silly, but you are, quite literally, spreading lies.  Simple as that.

You do have the right to Free Speech in this country.  But as you may recall, you do not have the right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater.  That is a crime.  You might remember that from your civics lesson.  Or maybe you don’t…if you did not do your homework.

You know what I heard? 

This is closely related to the gossip and conspiracy theories that we are seeing all over social media.  Like needy teenagers that want the approval of their peers, we are very willing to share any crazy theory that comes our way.  Back to the last point, it would be great if we would all push “pause” and do some research.

But if you don’t have time to research every theory (and you don’t) then just refrain from sharing!  I think Facebook should have one more step that you need to complete when you hit the share button that says “Really?  Are you sure you want to leverage your reputation on this?”

If you don’t have time to research, or like me, you are just not an expert in the area of healthcare, viruses, pandemics, and the like, you could say “I don’t know.”  You could rely on the expertise of those that have dedicated their lives to studying these things.

Admitting that you don’t know is not a sign of weakness.  It’s a sign of strength and maturity.

So, before you spread gossip, you might consider asking an expert in the field.  But that might be a challenge if you struggle with Number 2.

I don’t really care about anyone else.

Sorry to offend any teenagers reading this, but most of us were more selfish back in our teens.  I know I was.  But I would like to think that I have grown a bit since then.  I have more life experience and understand better that my actions have consequences outside of my own life.  So, it troubles me that I see what appears to be a real lack of consideration for anyone else from a percentage of the population.  Have we really gone this far backwards?

I am not a scientist or a doctor.  But science suggests that wearing a mask can help you from spreading your germs to others.  This article says that though masks might not help you protect yourself as much, doing so would help others.

It begs the question, if you can do something that is a minor annoyance to you but can help the rest of the country, would you do it?

Please understand that I say this with love.  Just like a proud parent, I see our potential.  During this pandemic, I have struggled with most of these as well…that is probably why I see them.

One final note of clarification:  I know I said we need to listen to our leaders.  I believe we do.  But that does not mean blind following of orders.  We still do need to maintain critical thinking.  I have never agreed with everything from any leader.  If you agree with EVERYTHING a leader says, you might not have a leader.  You might be in a cult.  But despite that healthy skepticism, I often understand that they have more information than me at the time.

Regardless of your stance on masks, or leadership, or health experts, I would love to see us all get back to the basics.  Let’s work to help one another.  Let’s make others safety a priority.  And let’s fight off the urge to be angry all of the time…and be kind.

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Written by: Kirby Hasseman

Kirby Hasseman is the CEO of Hasseman Marketing & Communications. Kirby hosts a weekly Web show called Delivering Marketing Joy where he interviews business leaders from around the country. Kirby has published four books. His most recent is “Fan of Happy.” His book, called "Delivering Marketing Joy" is about doing “promo right” and is perfect for people in the industry and customers. He also wrote “Think Big For Small Business” and “Give Your Way to Success. All are available on Amazon.