I have a fabulous life. No really, I do. I have two amazing children, a loving husband and family, good friends, and many interests. I get to travel to amazing places, meet amazing people, and do amazing things. Mostly, I get to raise my children and revel in the routine of going outside to play with our neighbors, shuttle from activity to activity, volunteer at school, manage our home and cook dinner. I get to do these things and so much more. It is nonstop work but it is a blessing. If you’re not convinced of just how blessed I am, check my social media feed. It’s a reflection of my life and proof positive that everything is wonderful. Or is it?
A few weeks ago I posted a short video of my son enjoying some grape jam at breakfast, a picture of my friend’s “Sexy Lips” necklace and a reference to one of my favorite poems, Desiderata, in honor of national poetry month. In weeks past I’ve posted pictures of date nights, spring break, sporting events and more. See? Wonderful, right?
But a few weeks ago I also had four days of sitting in an anxious place awaiting test results for a mass found in my breast. It’s a very common thing, to go through this sort of test, and this isn’t my first rodeo. But this time, I found the whole thing very stressful and nothing about the experience felt wonderful despite what I was posting on my social media. My test results came back negative but the experience made me think about my social media use, not just my mortality as a mom with young children, which is a whole other post. I considered:
- Why don’t I post about the things in my life that I’m working on, the imperfect stuff, the stuff that life is often made up of? Where is the balance in posting about real life without oversharing, making yourself look like a victim, or simply coming across as a whiner with a lot of problems? The truth is, I very consciously try to post more positive, fun, uplifting content, mostly because I need the reminder and perspective myself but also because I want to uplift others following me–nobody wants to be a “negative Nancy.” That said, while my intention is well-meaning, the overall outcome may be more harmful. I’m inadvertently contributing to the lack of clarity between perception and reality. My social media certainly gives off the notion that my life is totally wonderful, devoid of any real issues. While I have a blessed life, not being more candid about the ups and the downs of my life could make some teenage girl following me think that life has to be perfect and fabulous all the time. Trust me, it’s not. Hopefully, more social media influencers, celebrities, and those that really influence our children will be more vocal and conscious about posting with perspective, much like the recent Instagram post from Justin Bieber.
- Are parents the problem? I have an ongoing conversation with my mom friends about how best to help our children understand the false trappings of social media. For now, mine are still too young to have access to most of these tools but it’s certainly on the horizon and faster than I’d like. We typically consider our worst fears and try to determine how in the world we will teach our children about the limitations of social media content. I inevitably land on two thoughts — one, our children are growing up in a world that we, as adults, can’t fully grasp just as the generation before us couldn’t fully understand ours. With that comes the need for us to consider the importance of trusting our children to find their way, a truly terrifying proposition for me at this point. Two, children best learn about social media by talking to, and seeing how parents manage their social media. Yet, there are far too many parents who misuse and/or fall for the same trappings of social media. Are we totally screwed?
- How bad does it have to get before society considers putting some training, like a driving learners license, or enforced age limits around use? I applaud Instagram for starting to take steps to address bullying a few years ago and for amping it up recently with their anti-bullying feature but we, as parents, need to commit to doing more until there is a much larger solution for society as a while. We need to better use things like the Common Sense Family Media Agreement and Device Contract which helps families engage with social media in a healthier way.
My little health scare was a rare gift and the realization about my social media use and the associated perceptions was a nice distraction from worrying about my biopsy results. It made me remember that balance, as with most things in life, is always important and that we have a lot of work to do when it comes to education and social media.