SUBJECT: Social Media
I took our daughter back-to-school shopping the other day. When I asked her opinion of a jacket I found, she replied “like” and walked away. For her, this monosyllabic remark constituted acceptable communication. Sure, I got the info I needed, but it would have been nice to hear a few more words—“I love that shade of blue,” or “Let’s check for other colors in that style, too”—that would have helped with the shopping, and frankly, made our mother-daughter shopping trip more fun. I actually had a brief out-of-body experience where I looked down on the two of us and watched my image morph into a PayPal logo.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate an economy with words. But it bothers me that she didn’t get the fact that, for me, the day was not about a series of transactions, but rather about sharing ideas, preferences, and moments in the time-honored ceremony of clothes shopping… the old-school way of “posting updates” on each other and sharing “what’s on your mind.”
I’m afraid that our daughter’s growing love affair with social media is, in fact, charging an admission price of true relationships—both understanding them and having them. She recently had a misunderstanding with one of her friends, and commented that she would probably just “unfriend” her. Let’s put aside the travesty of language. What really troubled me was the realization that social media—with its one-click acceptance and rejection of “friends,” has stripped all the soul out of these relationships, greatly undermining what’s involved in cultivating a meaningful friendship and also trivializing the impact of ending them.
The art of friendship is suffering the same fate as that of letter writing, all for the sake of convenience and proliferation. The sooner our daughter appreciates that more is not always better, the less likely she will suffer at the hands of a medium that, for all its global relationship possibilities, manages to constrain potential friendships by narrowly preconceived recommendations, canned interpersonal exchanges, and “newspeak” (my “Orwellian” reference from high school literature…impressed?)
We need to talk about seriously limiting our daughter’s time on social media, maybe replacing that time with homework parties, or get-togethers with kids from after-school activities, to reinforce that friends emerge from shared experiences, pats on the back, warms hugs, and shoulders to cry on—things you just can’t get from Facebook.
SUBJECT: Social Media
Let me begin by saying the irony that we are having this discussion over email is not lost on me. That notwithstanding, I hear and appreciate your frustration; however, culture shifts occur from time to time, and the upcoming generations are always there to facilitate. Do you recall the movie “American Graffiti” with teenage Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss? To our grandparents, the teenager plus the automobile equaled the end of civilization as they knew it. And maybe that’s true, but it gave rise to something else that had its own flavor.
Bringing the moving analogy closer to you, consider “Valley Girl” or “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” two staples of our generation where the mall was the social congregation point, and teens met to find new ways to butcher the English language. Today, those same kids are now running corporations and our country.
A recent article in the Huffington Post (yes, I occasionally stumble onto the Huff) discussed market research by Lab 42 showing that33% of respondents had broken off a relationship over Facebook and 40% found it acceptable to do so. Granted, our little girl isn’t going to be breaking up with anyone over Facebook soon, but the social norming is occurring, and this “trend” has actually grown way past trend status. It has become a piece of Americana, much like the drive-in theater of the 50s and 60s or the malls of the 80s.
An intern here in the office has Facebook open all day and is constantly texting, but when I asked her to pull together some formulas and macros in an Excel sheet for me, she leveraged her relationships to find the answers and get the work done. The relationships being developed in social media can be meaningful and even long lasting; it’s the quality of person, not the technology, which determines these things. As long as we continue to raise an informed and dedicated daughter, she will make the right choices in her social media relationships.
I appreciate your anxiety over seeing these changes, but let me leave you with this thought “What fate imposes, that men must needs abide; It boots not to resist both wind and tide”–Shakespeare. With that I ask you… the beach this weekend? Summer may be over, but the water’s still great, and it would be a fun way for the family to unplug.