Monday, December 16, 2013

One Of Us Is Crazy

I remember, as a teen, occasionally thinking my Mom was crazy. I now know, that at the very same moment, she was thinking I was the crazy one. The other day I was looking over my teens shoulder as she checked Instagram. After a few snarky comments from me such as, "seriously, they are taking a picture of their Starbucks drink?! Imagine if they drank a hot chocolate and WE NEVER KNEW ABOUT IT! That would be terrible!" I asked, "how many people are you following?" The answer: 203. Now, before I tell you that I was shocked by that number and found it ridiculous, I should confess something. I have been very slow to jump on the social media bandwagon (I just recently created a Facebook account and have no idea how it works). I have nothing against social media. I think it is neither inherently good or bad, just like a hammer is neither good nor bad. If you use a hammer to fix something, good. If you use a hammer to knock some sense into your child, bad. Same with social media. Most days I felt lucky if I knew where my kids were and what they were doing and since I didn't always even know that much, keeping up on my old roommate from college just wasn't realistic. (Look at that kid in a diaper in the middle of the road down there- squint- OH MY GOSH that is my kid!)
Just because I don't use social media much doesn't mean I don't have an opinion on how it should be used. I have an opinion on almost everything, my friends and enemies will tell you. And since I dislike laying down rules for my teens when I can avoid it (read this to understand why), my daughter was subjected to a sermon on social media. Here is what I think: social media is a way of connecting with people we care about. It can also be a drain on our time, which can be damaging to the relationships we have with people we care about. So, we should use it judiciously. We should not be investing our time in keeping tabs on an acquaintance we met once on a vacation, we simply don't have enough time to do that and maintain meaningful relationships with our dearest friends and family. At least I don't. I asked my daughter to think before she started following someone, "is this someone I know and care about enough to invest my time in?"
My daughter thinks I'm crazy. All her friends follow at least that many people, it is just fun, she tells me. I think she is crazy. How can there really be 203 people that you care enough about to spend your time looking at pictures of what they had for lunch??? She thinks I am out of touch with reality. She is right and so am I. I am out of touch with reality. Most people are not using Instagram how I would like my kids to use it. Still, I want my children to approach their use of social media with some sound guiding principles. Those principles include using social media thoughtfully, in such a way that it  enriches their life and connection with the people who are important to them. And above all, never engaging so much with what is happening in the virtual world that the relationships you hold dear in the real world are weakened. Now, my daughter does not spend too much time on Instagram. Far from it, so I cannot complain that it is taking time away from those she loves. She also listened patiently to my tirade and did no more then roll her eyes. And she grudgingly went through her list and un-followed 50 people to appease me. For my part, I will try to remember that my ideal may not be realistic for a 14 year old's world and let my daughter make some of her own decisions as she learns how to manage social media in her life.

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