Generation Obsession



Posters displayed upon the walls of State College Area High School, showcasing the unique fixation high schoolers can have upon simple images such as this. Photo taken Friday, May 26.

Elisa Edgar

Idolatry and adolescence have come hand in hand from the very beginning. From music fanatics to politics, it can be argued that young people are often more prone to obsession with special interests. During a unique period of identity formation, finding communities, regardless of their structure, can be life-saving. Adolescents are still trying to figure out who they are and what they’re interested in, so it’s natural to latch onto all that resonates with them. Additionally, young people may have more time to devote more time to their interests.

“In my experience, I think participating in fanbases as a child was both helpful and harmful,” said Allison Tocmo, senior at State High. “Participating in the fan communities of my favorite TV shows helped me cultivate my art, my sense of community and supporting others’ art and creations, and gave me a space to bond with other people over something I loved.”

But where should the line be drawn between obsession versus passion?  Tocmo shared some of the downsides of such a powerful part of their life. 

“Because these communities mainly thrive online, fanbases typically have scattered age ranges, which can lead to younger members, unfortunately, being exposed to more mature content created by older members. Another negative that comes from the variety of ages in online fanbases is that younger members could fall to the possibility of becoming obsessed with participating in the community due to being in the stage of life where they want to feel accepted. This often leads to hive-mind mentalities and toxic interactions, which [are] harmful to the mental and social development of younger community members,” Tocmo said.

“With developing brains and a consumerist culture, the results seem inevitable,” they added. “All ages of our modern world have been trained for a need to consume pop culture as if it was oxygen.  Childhood infatuation can often lay the path for adulthood pursuits. Obsession can lead to incredible focus and dedication. When someone is obsessed with something, they are often willing to put in long hours and work tirelessly to achieve their goals. This can be incredibly beneficial when it comes to achieving success in a particular area. Dedicated fans of musical artists are often mocked by adults as irrational adorers. However, the value of this exploration cannot be undermined.”

Catherine Frank is a senior at State High. Next year, she will be attending Penn State for Graphic Design.

“I feel very happy and passionate when I paint and it’s a nice source of relaxation and expression,” said Frank.

Nevertheless, obsession can also be detrimental. When someone is obsessed with something, they may neglect other important aspects of their life, such as relationships, work, or school. It can lead to burnout, which can be incredibly damaging in the long run.

“Unfortunately,  I also get really caught up in making things perfect because I compare myself to my peers. I  obsess over getting every detail right, and even though I love art, sometimes it’s a love-hate relationship. I’m never satisfied with my finished products,” said Frank. 

Passion, on the other hand, is a more balanced approach. When someone is passionate about something, they are dedicated and focused, while still understanding the importance of balance. They know that it’s important to take breaks and take care of themselves, both physically and mentally. Passion can lead to a sense of purpose and fulfillment, as well as a sense of connection with others who share the same interests. It can help to fuel creativity and innovation.

Ultimately, whether someone is obsessed or passionate about something depends on the individual and their unique circumstances. It’s important to strike a balance between dedication and self-care and to understand the potential risks and benefits of both approaches. By doing so, young people can find a healthy way to pursue their interests and achieve their goals.

Generation Z is often referred to as the most politically involved generation and for good reason. It’s a unique generation, often defined by being one of the first to grow up alongside technology. Globalization has defined modern culture, as one that can be influenced by trends happening across the world. Growing up in a world that is more connected than ever before means access to a plethora of information. As a result, they are more likely to be informed about political issues and to take action. They have grown up in a world that is more diverse than ever before, and they are acutely aware of issues related to race, gender, and sexuality. Social media has made it easier for young people to communicate with others who share their views and to organize around causes. A sense of community can be incredibly empowering and can help to fuel activism and change.

However, constant exposure to politics can take a toll on mental health. With the rise of social media and 24-hour news cycles, it can be difficult to escape the constant barrage of political tragedies and travesties. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness, particularly when it feels like there is little that can be done to effect change. Existential hopelessness is often pointed to as a cause of widespread mental illness. 

Social media can also be a double-edged sword. While it can be a powerful tool for organizing and spreading awareness, it can also be a breeding ground for negativity and toxicity. Young people are often exposed to hateful comments and messages, which can take a toll on mental health and well-being.

Another defining characteristic of this generation can be argued to be our fixation on aesthetics and curated representations of personality. Social media platforms such as Instagram create pressure as such highly visual expressions.

Gen Z has grown up in a world that is saturated with images. From social media to advertising, Gen Z is constantly bombarded with visual stimuli. Being highly attuned to design is not necessarily a negative. For example, younger people are often much more skilled at social media and graphic management, making for useful job skills in an increasingly technical world. 

 Values of self-expression and individualism, however, can sometimes have the opposite effect. Focus on aesthetics can have severe negative consequences. The pressure to present a highly curated and idealized version of oneself online can be stressful and anxiety-inducing, especially as it concerns social hierarchies and acceptance. It can also contribute to a culture of comparison and competition, in which young people feel the need to constantly “one-up” each other in terms of aesthetics and online presence.

Despite possible risks, fanbases are some of the most intimate communities that exist. Outlets for teens beyond familial structure are integral to healthy development. Implications of being “hooked” upon a particular subject can only be met with mindfulness. Mindful consumption paired with a balanced life can allow these passions to grow.