Crowds of people mill around, most of them with a cell phone in hand. People run into one another, unaware of their surroundings while face first in their iPhones, and the sounds of irritation are palpable. Cameras snap pictures, groups of friends congregate, and hormones rage. That’s right, hormones…you’re walking through the hallway of a middle school in 2015. Middle schools these days have some very notable differences from when our generation roamed the halls.
Then: Just getting a cell phone was the highlight of your middle school experience. Back in our day, you got a cell phone so you could call your parents in emergencies. It was probably a Nokia brick, or some sort of first-generation flip phone. Touch screen? Nope. Games? Maybe you got Snake. Texting? If you were lucky…and limited to 100 a month.
Now: Not only do middle schoolers have cell phones, they use them like a third hand. Texting? Unlimited…and used much more often than talking to a real person. Social lives happen on an iPhone, and social media is a near art form. Able to craft the perfect tweet in mere minutes and expertly filter a picture bound for Instagram, today’s preteens are experts at staying connected.
Then: Remember AIM? Or maybe MSM was more your cup of tea. Either way, these messaging services dominated the ‘social media’ scene of our day. Rather than worrying about unfollows or the perfect profile picture to get the most likes, we spent hours coming up with the perfect away message.
Maybe, if you were lucky (or if you hid it from your parents), you got a MySpace. If this was the case, who made your Top 8 was perhaps the biggest decision of your week.
Now: Social media is everything. Studies suggest that kids as young as ten years old are actively involved in social networking. 100 Instagram likes in 10 minutes? Easy. Double digit retweets? No problem. Middle schoolers have social media down to a science.
Communicating In Class:
Then: Throwback to the note passing days anyone? Back before unlimited texting, we had pens and paper. You could write your note, maybe add some doodles aka hearts when you had to tell your friends about your crush, and stealthily pass your expertly folded paper envelope across the room. Fingers crossed that no one – especially your crush – opened before it got to the recipient. Even worse, you had to hope your teacher didn’t intercept it and read it to the entire class.
Now: Who needs to pass notes when you can just text your friends? Now, most schools have a no phone in class policy…but really, when have middle schoolers ever been notorious for following all the rules?
Drugs and Alcohol:
Then: As far as I can remember, alcohol wasn’t a huge issue in middle schools when our generation went through them. That isn’t to say there weren’t incidents, but it wasn’t dominant. The same goes for other drugs. Although there were cases I’m sure, it wasn’t an issue at the forefront of our minds, besides sneaking a sip of our parent’s beer at dinner.
Now: Sadly, it seems the prevalence of alcohol and drugs has increased in middle schools. Some middle schools even require a drug test to participate in school sports.
As much as I wish I did not have to include such a topic on this list, it is something that has occurred in the past and continues today. And there are some definite changes.
Then: Bullying has always been a terrible, difficult, and sometimes deadly part of growing up. In the not so distant past, however, bullying mostly occurred face-to-face.
Now: Since the advent of social media, and the proliferation of teenage cell phone ownership, cyberbullying has increased dramatically. I have seen far too many stories of kids destroyed by this phenomenon.
Middle school is hopefully not the highlight of anyone’s young life. Puberty, hormones, locker rooms, an undeniable awkward phase…some of these quintessential middle school struggles remain the same year after year. It is undeniable, though, that some things have definitely changed. So enjoy your cell phones, kids, because back in my day texting was sacred and note-passing was a bona fide art form.