Sep 13, 2018
My son, Joey, was a high school leadership camp counselor this summer. He managed about 30 high schoolers during the two 10-day over-night camp sessions, so it was about 15 kids per session. He came home when these two sessions were over. I picked him up from the airport. He looked physically and mentally exhausted but in good spirits.
So, on the way home, he was talking to me about the camp. I asked him what is the biggest takeaway from being a counselor? I sound like a podcast interviewer. He described his take away in two words: parenting and depression. Depression? Was he depressed? No. He explained it to me.
He said that he learned a lot about parenting. Well, he was a quasi-parent for these high schoolers for 20 some days. Since this was a leadership conference, they did personality, or team building exercises to help them discover who they are and what their strengths/weaknesses are. Through these exercises, kids need to start look inward and confront some of the emotional issues that they possess but have ignored for years.
When some of the emotions started surfacing, some kids broke down and didn’t know how to deal with it. He said most kids are from well-to-do families, but there are issues at home with their parents, with schools, or even with their own gender identities.
As mature as Joey is, he is only a college freshman. He is not trained to deal with some of the questions that these kids were asking him. He listened intensely. He was very careful not to tell them what they should do. He doesn’t think it’s his job to tell them what to do, but he tried to ask questions to help them assess the situation, then, guide them to identify some actions they can take on their own.
It’s funny that he told me how much he learned about parenting during the 20-some days. And he concluded that parenting is hard. No kidding, Joey. He said since he was responsible for all these kids and their safety, he was constantly on high alert. Even if he were sleeping, he would wake up in the middle of the night cold sweat, and the first thing pop into his mind was “where are my kids?”
I laughed so hard when he said that. Welcome to the parenthood, Joey!
The second thing he mentioned to me is alarming. He said that depression among teens is real and rampant. Most of these kids have so much, yet they are deeply unhappy. They obviously have emotional baggage that they carry with them. At the same time, I wonder if peer pressure and social comparison also play a role. When I look at my friends’ Facebook posts, everything is perfect: the family reunion, fun vacation, beautiful meals, and more. On social media which these kids know intimately, babies are always smiling, the holiday family get-together was always pleasant and friendly with no drama. Deep down, we all know that’s not true.
I am wondering if the kids growing up with smartphones and picture-perfect selfies fully understand that pictures or videos don’t tell the whole story. Perfect pictures don’t mean perfect lives. Life is full of setbacks and failures. Behind the scenes, we all have to deal with our ups and downs. The social comparison—or the urge to post pictures to show how happy they are—may be dragging them down.
I don’t have an answer for rampant depression. Since the causes of depression are different from individual to individual, the remedies will vary from case to case.
However, this issue makes me think about data and marketing. The greatest benefit of digital marketing is that we can optimize our marketing efforts using data, but to what end? I am using myself as an example. I’d look at my Google Analytics on a regular basis, I am never happy with my site traffic. Nothing I did was good enough, there is always something I need to do to improve on my website and outbound marketing. Often, I’d also fall into depression. When that happens, I tend to sit back and give myself a pep talk: Look at how far you’ve come in the past four years, Pam. Website traffic is not a result. It’s all part of the journey. Just keep doing what you are doing.
As marketers, we are always trying new ideas and technologies. Sometimes, it works, and sometimes it creates a major setback. I don’t know about you, but when that happens, it depresses the heck out of me. It’s so much more personal when you work for yourself. You spent your hard-earned money—and it just doesn’t work. It’s frustrating and depressing. This is especially true on the promotional front.
I am lucky that I have help. I can turn into my family and mentors to vent. I can also turn to my yoga practice. Overall, I can change my perspectives and count my blessings.
Joey was grateful for the experience. He was not sure if he wants to do it again next summer, because of the emotional toll. I asked him if he was depressed. He said: “No, Mom! If I am ever depressed, I can talk to you and dad about it. I will ask for help.” That’s the best thing Joey has ever said to me, in addition, that he loves me. He can come to me when he has issues. I am glad that he understands he is not alone and he can ask for help.
As marketers, we can ask for help, too!
Welcome back, Joey!
Again, send me your marketing questions or thoughts via Twitter @pamdidner
Be well. Until next time.