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Human development in psychology is the scientific study of human beings and how they change and develop from infancy to old age. The type of these changes is grouped into three categories that is cognitive, physical, and psychosocial. Physical human development involves the biological changes that occur in the human body from infancy to old age. Children’s bodies change as they grow, and their ability to do things and explore improves as different physical developments occur in their bodies. Cognitive human development refers to how human beings think, knowledge development, and problem-solving skills in their different life stages. The third category of human development is psychosocial, which refers to emotional and social capabilities in different stages of human life. It also refers to how personal needs relate to societal expectations and how they manage these changes throughout their lives.
Human development theories are essential as they provide concepts to the changes and developments in human life and explain their meaning and the relationship. Such theories clarify what influences human thinking and behaviors in different stages of their lives, from infancy to old age. Human development theories thus help understand human life experience in all aspects of life: physical, cognitive, and psychosocial. Such theories provide crucial insight to individuals and societies by understanding the changes that motivate human thought and behaviors. Proper understanding of human development help understand what others are going through enhances adequate support of other peoples’ physical and mental health. This paper will explain how David Elkind’s theory and adolescents’ egocentric concepts play out in the modern context, with social media and apps dominating many teens’ lives.
Theorist David Elkind argued that adolescents experience an egocentrism stage where they perceive the world through their perspectives. He described adolescents’ egocentrism as their inability to differentiate their perception of what other people think about them and the reality of what people think about them. Many people believe that egocentrism affects adolescents more than people in other stages of life, like younger children, adults, and the elderly. David Elkind According to David Elkind, egocentrism and the adolescent’s failure to distinguish their perception from that of other people towards them contributes to their beliefs and perception of Imaginary audience and Personal fable.
An imaginary audience is an adolescent’s perception that everybody is watching them and that all people’s attention is on them. Though imaginary audience fantasy can affect people of all ages, it predominantly affects adolescents who believe they are always everybody’s attention and evaluation. David Elkind described this fantasy as the adolescents’ assumptions that their perception on appearance and behaviors is shared by everybody else. Elkind related the belief of imaginary audience to the typical adolescents’ behaviors and experiences and that it causes the self-consciousness that occurs in early adolescence. Elkind also explained that the idea of an imaginary audience watching them and everyone’s attention on them leads adolescents to be secretive, seek privacy, and refuse to reveal themselves as they feel other people under their scrutiny.
On the other hand, a personal fable is a belief held by many adolescents that they are special and unique. They believe that no life problems and difficulties can affect them regardless of their behavior. According to Elkind, a personal fable is associated with the tendency of adolescents’ risk-taking behavior, such as immoral sexual behaviors, drugs and alcohol use, and other risky behaviors (Fraser,2020). They believe they are invulnerable and unique, and such risks cannot affect them like they can affect other people. The notion of a personal fable also tends to make adolescents believe they are above rules, discipline, and laws set for other people. Elkind reasons that the personal fable notion is responsible for the rebellious nature of many adolescents. According to Fraser (2020), a Personal fable does not only result in negative and risky behaviors but also has a positive impact on adolescents where it makes them believe in themselves and raises their self-esteem.
In the modern world, teens use social media sites and apps to make sense of their identity while still maintaining relationships with their close friends and relatives. The sites and apps present an opportunity for teens to self-present themselves and get feedback from other social media users, thus enabling them to evaluate themselves. Self-evaluation plays a significant role in adolescents’ egocentrism and their beliefs in the concepts of imaginary audience and personal fable. Therefore, social media use and online apps affects teens egocentrism in several ways. Firstly, social media sites and Apps increases the notion of imaginary audience since most of requires real names and details of the users. They then portray the name and other details to other online users which enhances the teens’ feeling of being under scrutiny and being watched and evaluated by other online users (Ranzini& Hoek 2017). This notion usually affects how teens present themselves on social media and their content as they feel that somebody is constantly watching them online. Researchers also observed that adolescents using social media have greater expectations than older adults, and they tend to post more contents, upload more photos due to the imaginary audience notion.
Other than their positive impacts of helping in self-presentation and evaluation, social media sites and apps also negatively impact where they lead to the development of low esteem among many adolescents. The negative impact happens when teens share content and photos, and nobody seems interested or gives negative comments and feedback regarding the teens’ content and even physical appearance. Sometimes they also undergo cyberbullying, harassing and body shaming which significantly lowers their self-esteem (Ranzini& Hoek 2017). Teens who turn to social media for self-presentation and evaluation but get negative feedback from other social media users end up hating themselves, and some even end their lives.
Social media sites and apps also heighten the notion of personal fable where adolescents using social media tend to involve in risky online behaviors. Vente et al. (2020) researched the effects of social media use on adolescents’ risky behavior and found a positive association between the two. He found out that many teens using social media thought of self-harm, injuries, and even suicide from the sites and apps. Some of them actualized behaviors where they harmed themselves, and in the worst-case scenario, some committed suicide. Others learn of sexting, cybersex, drug, and alcohol use from their peers on social media, influencing them to engage in such risky behaviors. Social media, therefore, increases the negative effect of personal fable among adolescents.
Elkind’s egocentrism concepts of imaginary audience and personal fable play a significant role in the way teens portray themselves on social media sites and apps. Because of the imaginary audience, the teens tend to believe other online users are always watching them, evaluating their shared contents, and viewing their uploaded photos. They, therefore, tend to turn to social media sites and apps for self-presentation and evaluation. While some teens manage to evaluate their identity and self-presentation, others get negative feedback, cyberbullying, and shaming, which significantly lowers their self-esteem. On the other hand, personal fables tend to lead many teens to use social media sites and apps to adopt risky online behaviors like self-harm, suicide, sexting, cybersex, and drug use. Therefore, it is clear that David Elkind’s theory and adolescents’ egocentric concepts play out in the modern context with social media and apps dominating many teens’ lives.
Vente, T., Daley, M., Killmeyer, E., & Grubb, L. K. (2020). Association of social media use and high-risk behaviors in adolescents: cross-sectional study. JMIR pediatrics and parenting, 3(1), e18043.
Ranzini, G., & Hoek, E. (2017). To you who (I think) are listening: Imaginary audience and impression management on Facebook. Computers in Human Behavior, 75, 228-235.
Fraser, R. (2020, June 9). Why it’s normal for Tweens and teens to have a personal fable. Retrieved from https://www.verywellfamily.com/personal-fable-meaning-and-origins-3287995