I am convinced that in every generation a technology is brought to life that dumbfounds & astounds us all. Sometimes these discoveries are revolutionary and change the world as we know it – the telephone, the fax, the internet. Others, like the pet rock, the snuggy, the McRib sandwich – well, not so much. Anyway, in my parents day it was the VCR. Using it was fine – a fairly easy concept. Setting the clock or timer on it, again I say – not so much. So it feels only natural to me that my generation should have it’s day. Our mysterious burden is Social Media.
Never have I seen a more completely unknown commodity – and more people claiming to have mastered it – than Social Media. No one knows really knows how to use it – no one really knows how to profit from it – and no one can predict where its going. Anyone claiming to have the magic formula will likely call themselves an ‘industry expert’. Which itself alone should give you reason for a healthy distrust. All of this is fine though – perfectly normal – right on track. We as a people often create one thing, only have it serve the needs of something totally unrelated. (Heard of penicillin?). Whether used for its intended purpose or something grander- we will get it, we will conquer. (And by ‘we’ I of course mean our children who are way smarter than we are…)
Until then though, we are stuck in that unfortunate phase in the evolution of something new where all of the negative effects are the most pronounced. Whether intentionally mean (those that graduated from on-line bulletin boards 20 years ago but still live in their parent’s basement today), or accidentally hurtful (lets face it, sometimes people just suck). Every great opportunity brings with it an element of focussed on capitalism rather than altruism. We are using a medium that promotes immediate gratification, but has eternal longevity. Good decisions fade away as background noise while bad ones hurt & haunt us forever. Why then – why in the world – would you want your children to use it?
Good question, right?
Being the master & King of your own destiny is all well and good, but who would have thought that the keys to the kingdom would be lodged in a keyboard? Cyber bullying is as common now as wedgies were in the 50’s. And it’s not like you can go home and change in to a dry mouse & monitor. The post is out there forever… like herpes… or luggage. It’s a tough concept for anyone to master. Think about it- you get pissed at someone and fly off on Facebook. What do you do? You take that initial response usually reserved for a face-to-face and you spew it into the social media sphere….. In front of your whole world… And watch as the judgements start rolling in. You- the responsible adult that knows better. How do you think kids fair in that situation? Teenage gossip is the pinnacle of short lived drama that reverses itself as the wind blows. But now the whole school knows and is commenting on the fact that little Jennifer is a slut because she slept with Teddy who was going out with Sally at the time… And now they can all read about it 20 years later when someone retweets that little ditty at an inopportune moment.
I think the solution is like most I make as a parent – simple in its conception and a complete pain to implement. How did we learn how to speak? To write? To behave? Where did our manors and values come from? (If you said ‘from a teacher’ out loud – you probably are one… and are not that far off). Look, in everything we teach as parents – all the good and bad – intentionally or by drinking in front of them – our kids will learn from us. Their education comes from watching and imitating and asking questions (my lord the questions), by listening (if you are lucky), and of course on the coat tails of peers. Social media is – if nothing else – another means by which to communicate. And while the etiquette may be a little foggy to most and the risk of running into a sexual predator disguised as a teen age girl may be high, I submit to you that this medium is no different than any other. There are things that are appropriate and things that are not. It is for you to decide the path that should be walked. To further the metaphor I’ll ask this- would you send your kids down a dark alley with a pretty light at the end with out teaching them how to defend themselves? I’m hoping not.
I’ve never claimed to have any answers- just a guy observing out loud.
Life is one big grey area – try to add color where you can.