Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cyber Stress

So, I am going to take a moment and open the idea of a discussion on something that has been playing on my mind for a while now. Feel free to chime in with the comment button below... or even later if you see me in person because I mean it when I say, I think that this is an important conversation and one that I very often default to what may not be the kindest course of action.

I'm talking social media, friends.

There are so many incredible articles out there about cyber bullying, and raising welcoming children with an awareness of other's feelings, etc. A friend posted (ironically) this great article the other day and I absolutely agree with the message wholeheartedly. Social development and relationships are uniquely challenging across all ages and then the added component of social media sometimes feels as if we are "kicking the hornets nest" of problems. Despite our very best of intentions.

Let me be the first to say that I am perhaps the most guilty of not being the kindest in terms of social media. I blog, I Instagram, I Facebook like it is going out of style. All this to mean that I am so very annoying communicative. (Sidenote: I completely understand if I have been hidden on your feeds... heck, I'd probably hide me if I wasn't posting about my people.) This whole invention of chatbooks pulled together by images you've posted on social media and cataloged by volume, date and in an adorable, little hardcover book? I mean, come on... it is genius. What an ideal way to document pictures of my children, as a mother of four, who has no time or desire to scrapbook. (It's just not my bag, baby).

Yet. This is where the problems ensue. The more you post... the more gets documented in those dang, adorable chatbooks... leaving you with great images from memorable moments in your life. How do you go about posting events that are special to you without overstepping the lines into exclusionary, elitist and unkind? While I can recognize that what I see on Facebook is not an accurate depiction of reality, what kind of message am I sending to my child about how it is okay to treat others?

An example.

Say I have an incredibly fun birthday party for my son and it is wonderful and unique and a total blast. I post the pictures (for the chatbooks, of course), friends tag me in their pictures (after all, it was a really fun party) and it is so great to have all these photos logged in one spot for easy documentation/book binding goodness. But... what about my Facebook friend's daughters that weren't invited to this party? What about that buddy from last year that really isn't a close friend of my son's anymore? I mean... we can't invite absolutely everyone we know that would be unmanageable and completely off budget. Yet that child's mother is my friend. Her children are wonderful. She sees the party pictures... perhaps I forgot to have the awkward conversation beforehand and this is how she is realizing that her child (or self) has been "left out"? I am ashamed for the role that I took in exposing that exclusionary facet and yet, isn't this what social media (either intentionally or not) does on a regular basis?

As a confident, educated woman, I had hoped that I would be able to understand that parties happen, friendships change, maybe this "one event" was a unique occasion that just wasn't my best fit for an invitation. Yet, several times this year, my own feelings have been hurt when I have felt left out. Sure, perhaps it was on a more fragile night post shift when my feelings are a bit more raw or on the brink of a good ole visit from "aunt flo" but regardless... I have seen pictures of people I love and thought really loved me having a grand ole' time and feel forgotten. So I wonder... If as a grown up, with a stronger sense of self (most days) and abundance of healthy friendships... if I am capable of falling in to this ostracizing and lonely world of social media... what are children capable of doing to each other?

With Molly entering middle school in one year (gasp!), these topics of cell phones, cyber bullying, texting feuds... it is all quickly becoming our reality so very soon. Good gravy, guys. I am so under-prepared for it. And that... that terrifies me.

Give me back all the stinky diapers, sleepless nights and toddler tantrums if I don't have to navigate the social footfalls of middle school at a time where technology is absolutely NO comparison to what it was when I was in a similar stage of life. Sure we passed notes about people and called friends on our land-lines (with phones attached to a wall) and had sleepovers that not everyone was invited to. BUT it wasn't on social media. The pictures weren't staring our younger selves in the faces cataloging every agonizing moment of fun that we missed out on. It is so much harder now.

So. What's the solution? Moms and Dads of older children...I'm talking to you. Help a Mama out. I'm all for building my child up, working on her understanding of what it means to not only be kind but seeking out friends on the sidelines, helping her to feel loved even if she can't always see that through her own eyes. There is just so much more I can't protect or prepare ahead of time. Banning all social media, cell phones, technology... turning our tv in to a cardboard box... it isn't our reality. Our children are growing up in a technological era and quite frankly... the world is their oyster because of of it. There's a lot of greatness that comes with technological advances.

Too bad it totally scares the shit out of me.


American Sheila said...

Love this. This is part of why I got off FB for 8 months. It really was good for the soul. I am now not posting the days of our lives. I realized that I didn't feel the need to take so many pics to document our every move. I take pics now simply because I want them, not because I feel the need to update everyone on our Saturday outing. I have advised friends to get off when the say they don't feel like they can keep up with the Joneses. They let me know later that they are glad they are off. I came back on for 3 reasons... I wanted to sell baby stuff on garage sale websites, I wanted to see how my friends were doing, and I'm bored nursing at night! Lol love you girl!

Jessica said...

As my kids have gotten older and we are adding different layers of friends to our friendship circles I have become more aware of this too. In the last year or so, I have begun a personal little policy of trying not to post photos of social engagements, just to be sure that people do not feel left out or bad in any way. It's not that I am trying to withhold anything, I just don't think that every social event needs to be flaunted, ya know. I am TRYING to stick to posting only about family things that others wouldn't be invited to anyway. It gets tricky though, when friends post about events and tag you.. Do you untag yourself or just sit behind your phone and cringe? I don't know, it's a tough question and is definitely not black and white by any means! Interesting convo!

Jessica said...

Oh, and in relation on how to help your kids deal... I don't even know!! Let me know when you get it all figured out! :D