Monday, August 17, 2015

It’s All An Act: Teaching Children That Social Media Isn’t An Accurate Depiction of Anyone

Today’s children are growing up in a world where social media is at the center.  Adults, teens and even younger children are watching everyone else.  Pictures are posted of happy families at the beach or at the mountains on vacation.  Scroll through your apps and a majority of people look so happy.  Many make social media declarations about how lucky they are and how life has been good to them. 

The everydayness of life is missing from social media.  Every life is multi-dimensional.  Children need to know that social media is all an act.  It doesn’t depict the whole truth.  They are not less than anyone else because they are not always smiling.  Their lives are not worse than everyone smiling at them on social media.

Our society has always over valued happiness above other emotions.  All emotions come and go.  Every emotion is part of the human experience.  We should enjoy happiness when we have it, of course.  We need to understand that it is a feeling just like sadness and fear and they all pass.  The goal in our lives needs to be acceptance.  With acceptance, comes peace of mind.  Endless happiness is an unrealistic goal but there it is on the pages of social media – a seemingly endless stream of people without a care.

I remember my mother telling me that everyone has problems.  I wonder if today’s children will have a harder time believing that because of the physical evidence to the contrary.  Our children are natives of the social media world.  They are growing up with a different understanding of privacy than prior generations.  To see a picture of my generation, you actually had to visit my house and look in a photo album.  My baby pictures were not posted for everyone to see.

Social media has benefits, too.  Our children can be in touch with family more easily.  They can stay connected to friends who move away.   As they look over our shoulders when they are young and they get their own social media accounts as they get older, we need to keep telling them, “It’s all an act.  Everyone picks what they put on social media.  They are trying to entertain us or document their happiest moments or sometimes just get attention.  This is not everything about them.”   Let the children know that every life has joy and sadness, bravery and fear, good times and challenging times.  No one is alone in the human experience.

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