There follows a guest post by dental student Tom Shaw, who says the paralysing atmosphere of conformity that young people have learned from social media has been made much worse by the last two years.
From early on in dental school, it stumped me why I was one of the few people willing to answer questions in university lectures or practical classes, let alone volunteer my own questions. Why would I, or anyone else, waste £9,250 a year to sit in an awkward silence when it was either reasonably clear what the answer was or I could at least have a stab at answering it and learn something new if I was wrong. Particularly in practical classes, with the answer often being on the handouts we’d been given or available in the session’s pre-reading, it seemed silly to waste time in pointless silence that could otherwise be spent learning the necessary technical skills that make a good dentist. Yet it seemed many of my peers did not subscribe to such a view on their higher education or, if they did, did not do a very public job of acting upon it.
Many scientists and software engineers point to the role that social media is likely having on young people, including on their mental development. I come from the first generation where such technology was ubiquitous throughout my adolescent years and, having lived through that, I can see how social media could contribute to the problem. Kids grow up with an environment in which everyone online appear as ‘model citizens’, who publicise only the highlights of their life and hide the rest to be forgotten to time. In this context, many understandably feel that making a mistake, whether online or in ‘real life’, must be avoided. This leads young people to be constantly thinking about how best to avoid or even eliminate a mistake.