I read a lot of books. Most of them are fiction. A lot of it is Young Adult fiction. Many of the books are memorable. None of them have touched me though like my current read, American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales. This book has completely changed my way of thinking, my thoughts on social media, and my thoughts about my level of sharing about my children in public forums.
“Ninety-two percent of American children have an online presence before the age of two.”
92%!!! That is a staggering number. Admittedly, my children are part of that percentage. If I had to do it all over again, I would rather be part of the 8%. In this age of sharing, we all want to be a part of it. We all want to show off our children. But what is this doing to our children? Instead of just enjoying a moment and capturing a memory, we are living through our smart phones. If we don’t get the picture right the first time, we have the children perform to get the perfect shot, chasing those likes and double taps for our next high.
Besides that, what about the fact that our children can no longer enjoy childhood privately? Every moment is a photo op to be shared. Every milestone is a new tweet. Oversharing is the norm. Yes we are proud of what our children have accomplished so far but what about when they get older and more aware. Are these posts and pictures the type of things they want associated with their name? Honestly, we didn’t even give them a choice.
“Online life is a toxic enabler of the desire to compare.”
Think about this one. I can admit to many moments of feeling envious towards a friend when they post pictures of their immaculately decorated house or their kid eating like roasted salmon with asparagus. Meanwhile I’m over here in a house with toys all over and kids eating chicken nuggets and ketchup. I should be grateful that I have a comfortable home for my kids and food to feed them. Instead all I do is compare. As the saying goes, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And with all of the sharing on social media, there is a lot of comparing going on. Just imagine if we, as adults, are comparing our online lives, teenagers with less coping skills are doing the same thing.
According to Jean Kilbourne, “Social media creates a heightened sense of competition and inferiority.” We see the perfectly fit moms on social media who wear skinny jeans home from the hospital. Or the moms who chase after a toddler in heels, with perfect hair and make-up. We know this is not the norm. Yet, we find ourselves comparing instead of focusing on the awesome you that you are.
“Social media has given parenting a whole new dimension, and it has provided a publishing tool for parenting as performance.”
I’m looking at you breastfeeding pictures, placenta smoothies, moms running marathons at 30 weeks pregnant, and perfect Pinterest nurseries. Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. Yes we all like to be acknowledged for our hard work but isn’t part of posting these pictures (even if just a small part) to set yourself apart from the pack or show others how superior a parent you are? Social media has made it possible to share with the world our performance as a parent, seeking approval by way of likes, while shunning or shaming those who don’t necessarily agree with our decisions.
I don’t have any answers on how to solve this problem, but I have taken some steps. I made a decision to stop posting pictures of my children on social media. I want them to have a choice when they grow up. I deleted Facebook from my phone. I don’t even miss it. I am trying to be more mindful with my phone while my children are around. I want to show them that I don’t need to be on my phone 24/7. I hope later, they can model this behavior. If you are at all curious about what social media is doing to our children, I suggest taking a look at the book. Maybe it will change your life too.
Note: The quotes in bold are all taken from the book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales.