We have established that, in terms of my television viewing tendencies, I am essentially a teeny-bopper trapped in the body of a 29-year old woman (see also: SYTYCD obsession, love of Pretty Little Liars). We have also established that I am a crier (see also: me since birth). On the surface, those two factors alone make it pretty clear that If You Really Knew Me on MTV was pretty much made for me… but in reality, I’m pretty sure you’d have to be a cold-hearted snake to not feel some sort of connection to the kids on this show.
The run-down: If You Really Knew Me is a documentary-style show, chronicling the experience of high schoolers across the country as they experience Challenge Day, run by an organization whose “mission is to provide youth and their communities with experiential programs that demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth, and full expression.” Each week on the hour-long show, a different high school is featured, and different kids share their deepest feelings and find unexpected common bonds with one another. The jocks, nerds, popular kids, and bullies discover that they’re not so different after all.
There are some things that haven’t changed since I was in high school — drama with friends, relationships, family turmoil, bullying — but one thing that is extremely clear is that the way the internet and cell phones have changed how kids communicate with each other (and bully each other) is pretty alarming. It’s hard to imagine what they go through now that we never, ever had to worry about. I mean, AIM was just catching on during my senior year in high school, and no one had a cell phone back then (except maybe our parents who had them for work). It was just a different world, and that’s kind of crazy considering it was only 12 years ago.
In case you don’t remember high school or were one of those rare people who never dealt with drama when you were younger, teenagers can be cruel. I mean, I’ve seen the internet be a threatening and scary place for grown adults who get bullied by strangers online — I just can’t fathom what teenagers deal with as Facebook, Twitter, Formspring and texting have all become commonplace means of communication and bullying. It is sadly not surprising to me that teen suicides as a result of online bullying have become an unfortunate reality in our society.
Personally, I had a pretty average high school experience. There were highs, and there were lows. I wasn’t the most popular, but having gone to school with the same kids since kindergarten, most people in my grade knew who I was (I think). I was never the victim of serious bullying. There were times when I didn’t know where I fit in, but there were also amazing friends who came along and made it all worthwhile for me. I was a fairly well-adjusted, well-behaved, and well-liked person. I was not faced with any major losses or tragedies in my life. I was lucky.
Hearing the stories of so many teens with real pain in their lives on If You Really Knew Me has me in tears every week. The show has kind of restored my faith in the youth of our country — maybe they don’t have an unrealistic sense of entitlement, after all. Maybe they get that life isn’t fair, and being kind to others is one of the greatest things you can do in life.
Have you seen this show? What was high school like for you?