“We just love your Facebook posts. Your kids are ADORABLE – you have the perfect family.”
“You do realize how lucky you are, right? I mean, he’s the perfect husband.”
“Mom, don’t put this picture on Facebook or Instagram, okay? I don’t want my friends’ moms to see it and show it to them.”
I’ve heard the previous statements over the past two months, from 1. former students, 2. a colleague and 3. my daughter. I cringed each time.
Listen, my kids are adorable, but my family is far from perfect. My husband? He’s a gem, and I adore him, but even he would admit that “perfect” is a bit of a stretch. And while I didn’t have any intention of putting that particular picture up for social media consumption, my 11 year old daughter’s awareness of how she might “appear”, should any of her friends’ moms even see it, not to mention care enough to show their daughters, made my shoulders sag.
The double edged sword of social media.
A couple days ago, I posted this article from the New York Post on Facebook about the negative effects of social media on our society, on our youth in particular, and how it is manipulated to portray a certain image (and yes, I fully recognize the inherent irony in posting the article on social media). By now, nearly 16 years into the digital age of the 21st century, we’re all aware of the “public” nature of social media, and how it can negatively impact us with regard to college acceptance, or employment; we’ve read more than one tragic account of cyberbullying leading to suicide, and those of us in the field of education speak to our students regularly about “appropriate and responsible” use of social media.
But what about the (arguably) less outwardly dangerous but more insidious impact of social media on our day to day lives?
It’s something I struggle with, a lot.
On the one hand, I love social media. I am active on Twitter, Facebook, Vine and Instagram (although I still don’t get Snapchat, at all. I briefly flirted with, then abandoned, Periscope). I like sharing pictures of my family on Instagram, and Facebook is my primary form of contact with my family and faraway friends. Twitter is my daily chat with my local girlfriends, since our busy career and mom schedules only permit for a bimonthly GNO, if we’re lucky.
Do I try to stay positive in my posts? Focus on the fun stuff my family is doing, or vignettes that I think others might find funny or entertaining? Sure. Am I doing it to try to portray some sort of “image” about my family? Convince people that I have a “perfect” family, the “perfect” husband? Am I one of the people the article warned about, the “friends on social media who contribute to this fake reality”?
Not only does that idea make me cringe (see above), but I viscerally recoil at that notion because I do know others who utilize social media for those purposes. I suspect we all know people who hit “publish” or “tweet” with the express calculated intent of presenting a manipulated facade to the internet world, whether out of self-protection or self-promotion.
Fortunately, my own kids are pretty oblivious. My oldest (15) has an Instagram and Facebook, but rarely, if ever, checks them. My middle (13) and youngest (11) both have had Instagrams and one a Pinterest page for over a year now, initiated and set up at the other house (without discussion with or consent by me), but thanksfully, the interest in Pinterest was short lived, and they rarely get on Instagram. I’ve had to have honest and frank talks with all 3 of them about how social media is manipulated and used by certain individuals, and for better or for worse, my kids understand and “see” the manufactured image of false realities.
As the article notes, there’s a growing backlash against social media, and I, for one, welcome it. As much as I like seeing pictures and updates from friends and family near and far, there’s something to be said for our flawed, imperfect, but real, lives.