The Story so Far
A teenage girl from Sweden was getting pretty frustrated with the lack of action from grown-ups in response to the chaotic state of our dying planet. She stopped going to school, got some publicity behind her, and achieved great things. She's only 16.
She made it to the UN Climate Action Summit and spoke on the world stage, making an impassioned speech. What followed, naturally, was a furious, adverse reaction from half the planet. Then, the other half of the planet reacted with an equally vitriolic rebuttal. Which, of course, led to good old fashioned rage. Because apparently, this is how we communicate now. We look for something to be mad about and completely disregard the actual issues.
What Have You Achieved?
I personally think this kid is a force to be reckoned with. And I believe that climate change is a thing. I'm on her side. What I don't agree with, are the mems and articles that ask the same question to address the angry masses that are anti-Greta, what did you do when you were 16?
Or my favourite quote,
Ooft. First of all, can we all seriously calm down? I mean everyone. Whether you think she's right or wrong, why are you on the brink of a nervous breakdown? Why must everyone take everything so personally?
I get those that are in her corner may be frustrated with what's going on. I understand that. A dying planet is a big deal and absolutely worthy of passion. But there is a considerable problem with posing the questions around comparative achievements.
I'm a Terrible Human
When I first heard about this incredible teenager, I was doing a whole bunch of air travel, consulting with heavy industry clients, and driving a big ole car that chomps through petrol. Yeah, I felt like shit. Here I am, a 38-year-old woman, reading an article about an incredible kid changing the world. What have I done with my life? Why aren't I making a difference?
This line of thinking can quickly spiral out of control. Particularly if, like me, you have a mental illness.
"… many people make unreasonable comparisons to others who have achieved at unusually high levels, causing them a great deal of anxiety about their own progress in life. The fascination with celebrity culture and the prevalence of carefully-manicured social-media feeds have only exacerbated concerns around social comparison, exposing people to endless potential comparisons, many of whom at least appear to be perfect."
With this in mind, we all need to be more accountable for our words online. Your angry meme may be enough to tip someone over the edge.
As more neuroscience and psychological studies are being conducted on the impact of social media, the results are relatively similar. It's not social media itself that's problematic; it's how we use it. Those that are constantly comparing themselves and use it as a measure of success are the ones more likely to be most affected.
The most dangerous thing about building up Greta and making her better than you is what it could potentially do to younger people. No teenager should ever have to live up to the expectations of what Greta has achieved. It's unfair and unrealistic.
Inspiration and Demoralisation
We need to understand how to communicate more effectively. People everywhere should absolutely admire Greta and what she's done. She should be a positive inspiration that kids and adults alike can look up to. She should be a catalyst for people to look at what more they can do to contribute to helping the planet. How's this for a crazy idea; instead of defending her to the death by putting others down, listen to what she's saying and find ways to help?
We don't all have the opportunity to have an audience with world leaders, we're not all going to be household names, and we're not all going to be able to reach the masses with our ideas. That doesn't make us insignificant. Nor should we question our worth as a result of this.
Instead of comparing what we have achieved at 16 (or any age for that matter) as a way of abating climate change deniers, redirect the conversation. Find like-minded people that want to make a difference, see what more you could be doing and give yourself a pat on the back for doing some good.