Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dear Teens: A little advice about relationships and trust

So there was this story in the New York Times today Young, in Love and Sharing Everything, including a Password. Apparently:

 It has become fashionable for young people to express their affection for each other by sharing their passwords to e-mail,Facebook and other accounts. Boyfriends and girlfriends sometimes even create identical passwords, and let each other read their private e-mails and texts.
Already, I'm shaking my head and feeling all "get off my lawn", but I continue reading.

In a 2011 telephone survey, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 30 percent of teenagers who were regularly online had shared a password with a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend.
 SMH. I am reaching for my Tums and my box of Clairol Perfect 10. But wait, there's more!
Rosalind Wiseman, who studies how teenagers use technology and is author of “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” a book for parents about helping girls survive adolescence, said the sharing of passwords, and the pressure to do so, was somewhat similar to sex.

Sharing passwords, she noted, feels forbidden because it is generally discouraged by adults and involves vulnerability. And there is pressure in many teenage relationships to share passwords, just as there is to have sex.

“The response is the same: if we’re in a relationship, you have to give me anything,” Ms. Wiseman said.

And the part that made me go "WTF? Seriously, what are these kids ON?!!":

“It’s a sign of trust,” Tiffany Carandang, a high school senior in San Francisco, said of the decision she and her boyfriend made several months ago to share passwords for e-mail and Facebook. “I have nothing to hide from him, and he has nothing to hide from me.”
“That is so cute,” said Cherry Ng, 16, listening in to her friend’s comments to a reporter outside school. “They really trust each other.” 
Okay kids. Hold onto your hats. Auntie Sarah is about to rant.

Full disclosure: I am not an expert on relationships. I have been in...well, a LOT of dysfunctional relationships in the course of my forty-something years.

But let me give you the benefit of my many, many years of experience and therapy.*

Reading each other's emails and texts isn't intimacy. It's spying. It does not, actually imply that you trust each other. It reveals the exact opposite about your relationship.

Just like a fire, a relationship needs oxygen. It doesn't get that if you are stifling each other. Relationships work best when you are both your own person, confident in yourselves, each with your own interests and passions and your own private spaces. THEN you come together to share and reveal, slowly, gradually in a process that can take a lifetime if you are both thoughtful and evolving human beings. Therein lies the intimacy.

Anyone else find this article seriously depressing?

*This is one of the advantages of getting old if you get therapy. You learn things from your dysfunctional experiences as a youth and it enables you to live a happier life when everything is starting to sag and you're reaching for the Clairol Perfect 10 box. 


  1. I'm laughing, but only because you've put it so well. It's so true! I had no idea kids were doing this, so I'm going to talk to my younger brother right now to make sure he doesn't do this either. Bah!

    (You are awesome.)

  2. This was perfect. And I totally agree about the "gift" of therapy is getting your head on straight just in time to watch everything go south. Great post.

  3. I asked both my kids if they would ever consider doing this. I won't share their completely different but equally hysterical answers out of privacy, but to each I said that I had to ask the question because if I didn't ask the question I wouldn't know the answer and it's my job as the parent to ask the question.

    Also Maya : )))) You made this saggy middle-aged get off my lawn lady's day!

  4. Holy macaroni. I'm sharing this info with my 6th and 8th grade classes! You have put this so succinctly -- congratulations on carving the ridiculous crap right off the "reasoning" for doing such a stupid thing.

  5. Oh Mama B- I have to send you the link to another story that will make your hair curl.