Social Media… it’s a jungle out there.
Firstly, let me say that I have been guilty of what I’m about to write. Why am I writing and exposing myself and possibly many of you who are reading? I’m writing because we need to address ‘Social Media, Teens and the Judgement We Pass’. We are raising teenagers and I’ve had a gut full of the harmful chatter. It’s time to say something.
Before I start, may I remind you of the biblical story found in John 8. This story pays reference to people living in glass houses ‘He who is without sin throw the first stone.’
What has me buzzing today? As a social media professional, I understand social spaces and offered the ‘behind the scenes view’ of posts, comments, snap stories, etc. My kids, however, would tell you that I don’t always get it right. I have, on occasion, misinterpreted things. This is where my guilt rests. Having teenagers and being the first generation of people to raise kids an overexposed world has caused my opinions to change.
Where is my frustration? It’s in the conversations outside of social media. I’ve been in them; heard them about other kids, and I been confronted with them about my kids. It annoying. We follow our kids; then we follow our kids’ friends; our kids let us follow them, and we see their life unfolding in front of us. Or, what we think is unfolding and we make comments outside of social spaces. What happens next? We talk about them and comment on their wild ways because of the what they post and sadly we judge them. They are put in boxes that they don’t deserve to be put in. A degree of marginalisation happens. Assumptions are made about them, and we chat about them. Before we know it, their reputations are tarnished. It’s appalling, and we need to check ourselves.
Thankfully Social Media Wasn’t Around During My Youthful Days…
I’m grateful that social media wasn’t around in my youth. I cringe when I think what could be out there for the world to see. There is one photo from my younger years that will stick with me forever. It’s one my kids have seen and although quite innocent it’s a moment that wasn’t one of my highlights. I tried to find it to share it, but it’s tucked away somewhere safe. It’s a picture of me, in a club with a tight, form-fitting white dress with black dots. I was sitting on Philip’s lap, cigarette in hand. It was innocent, however, had I posted, at the time, people would have made assumptions about me, they would have put me in a category. I can’t imagine knowing that my parents’ friends would see glimpses of my life exposed as I was discovering who I was and making mistakes.
I’m grateful that I wasn’t under the microscope and constantly in view. I’m thankful that my parents’ friends, my aunts and uncles rested knowing that I was probably up to something but remained constant in my life. They didn’t busy themselves chatting about my foibles and selfies. Instead, they helped me walk out my truth and gave me safe places to land. Places without judgement, ridicule, smerks, and ridiculous comments.
In some ways I guess this article is a cautionary tale. One that reminds us of how many selfies the kids we are talking about take before posting the perfect picture. One that also tells us to think about the way we post do question whether our posts bring expression to what is going on in our lives?
To the one who posts the perfect family, the greatest vacation, the dates with bae (ugh!) and the happy family off to church. We all know that the perfect family doesn’t exist. For example, our recent Christmas vacation was great, and we had some incredible highs that I posted. However, what you didn’t see was the fight in the airport and the moment when my husband was cranky at how I had packed and the weight of our bags. When he made us repack in the middle of the airport. Oh, the expletives I was letting go of. These scenes are the ones we leave out. For the happy family on route to church, I’m sure some Sundays are great, and you arrive intact but on other Sundays, the ‘road to church fight is underway’. As for the photo of the date with ‘your bae,’ I have no words.
Social Media is a jungle
So be kind and realise that what you see teens posting doesn’t mean they are on the wrong path. It doesn’t tell the entire story, it gives ridiculous highlights of the fun they are having, it’s only part of the story. Stop judging them based on a moment in time and yes, perhaps a stupid moment that they will regret posting. In most cases, they aren’t falling off the wagon. They aren’t on the highway to hell. They are living their life, they are exposed on every level, they never know when they are being filmed or when images are being captured. With that in mind step away from the keyboard, get off your high horse because it’s easier to get off than fall off. Become safe places for them, put your gavel down and lessen up on judging them. They don’t need Judge Judy in their life.
In the end…
These kids know the ins and outs of social media, it is part of the life they have lived, and your judgement doesn’t encourage them, it doesn’t build them, and it certainly doesn’t draw them closer. What it does is puts a wall or a block between you and them. It may be an actual block whereby they use their rights, and they prevent you from seeing their life unfold or, they apply their social media knowledge to your posts, and they don’t judge you, they simply call your b*ll$h*t and lose respect for you with every post. Harsh but true.