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Let Teenagers Be Vocal

In the age of social media, teenagers are the next generation of activists and leaders.

Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter

I'm outspoken. I kind of always have been, often finding my voice in political movements and social justice, always standing up for what I believe is right. 

I've grown up knowing that someday I'll be an adult and it will be my responsibility to change what I don't like about the world, or at least put forth my best effort to do so. The older I get, however, I start to wonder why it's necessary for me to wait if I could use my voice now.

I'm fairly intelligent, well-spoken, well-tempered, and very opinionated. But not being able to drive and living in a small town can tend to inhibit my activism a bit. 

It was only natural that I turn towards the internet. 

Online activism became a huge part of my life, my Twitter and Instagram being dedicated to body positivity, reproductive rights, racial equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and all other facets of intersectional feminism.

It was great. I could speak my mind, meet people who had similar ideas to my own, and I truly felt like I was making a difference, if on a smaller scale than desired.

The longer I immersed myself in this world, I found myself getting more and more backlash from adults, people that were twice my age. The same adults who ripped on teenagers for not getting involved in politics were flooding my notifications with scrutiny of my online activism and how it wasn't enough.

You have to keep in mind that at this point I was fifteen, trying to find my voice in a world that was moving so fast and I would have to jump into in only a few years time. I wanted to make it a world I wanted to live in, and this was my way how.  But yet, I wasn't being taken seriously. Even if my arguments were valid and my research was accurate, I was still told to "leave this to the adults".

But how can I do that if this is my world too?

So I ask you, the adult who is reading this, what did you think about as a teenager? Did you have opinions? Did it bother you when adults undermined those opinions? 

I'm certain that you must have experienced this at some time in your life, and while you may have been subservient, I can assure you that my generation will not be. These are the next politicians, doctors, writers, lawyers, and everything else. This is our world that you're living in. 

We need to stop acting like teenagers aren't fully functioning human beings with hearts and brains. Sure we may be overly dramatic sometimes, but that doesn't discount the important things we have to say.

To the teenager who may be reading this, I encourage you to not be quiet. Your opinions are valid. And while it's important that you listen to other viewpoints and scrutiny, it's also important to not let anyone silence you. Growing and expanding your views with new information is great. But allowing other people to make you feel unimportant and undeserving of sharing your thoughts is not.  

There is nothing wrong with being strong, being passionate, being interested in the world around you. Your age does not define your readiness to face this world head on. There are adults who are probably less ready than you are. Be kind, be compassionate, but also don't take anyone's crap. People, especially on the internet, can tend to be angry and looking for an outlet for that anger. Don't let their negativity get in the way of your spark.

A reminder to all:

These kids are your children, nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbors, friends. They're the future. Please treat them how you'd want to be treated 

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