Social media has changed everything. Love it, hate it or love to hate it, nothing has changed our culture quite like Facebook. Not only has it changed the current culture but what is being shared today will most certainly effect everything about the next generation as well.
Mere hours after both of my kids were born, I hit “post” to share pictures of these brand new, beautiful little babies with the world. It was my “Mufasa shares Simba with the pride land” moment. I would say more Mother’s than not do this. We are overwhelmed with excitement that the moment has finally come and we want to share it with everyone we (even sort of) know. Right now there is a whole generation of kids that have their newborn cone heads and gangly limbs on display on the internet. From birth, we snap and share numerous times daily in the beginning. My Facebook photo albums capture some of the best times and funniest moments yet in my very young children’s lives.
What I’m pondering is, is this a good thing? For the current moment, it feels like yes. I have family and close friends that live states away and it means everything to be able to share special moments with them via pictures shared on Facebook. Also, I have an overwhelming need to record current time with both words and pictures. Facebook allows me to do both in several different forms. It’s this generations future that I’m questioning whether or not our “sharing behaviors” will effect negatively. Will our kids thank us? Will they hate us? Will their classmates use the moments we found funny and shared against them? Will an employer or potential date judge our children by what we chose to share? Will any of this even matter by the time they hit the age where they learn to explore the internet?
Awkward Small Talk
This has happened to me so many times. I run in to someone I haven’t seen in a while, usually in the
liquor store grocery store, and one of two things happen. Either there is awkward small talk because we already know the answer to the not even yet asked question, “What’s going on?” or I am asked a question in regards to something I forgot I posted about a few days prior such as, “Hey, how is your daughter feeling?”. It jolts you when someone, especially someone you might actually talk to a few times a year, brings up something, somewhat personal, about your child. When we share things like, “Good grief, the kids are sick again”, it’s easy to see it as absolutely no big deal. It’s not until your having paranoid thoughts in Price Chopper about the (kinda) stranger in front of you asking you about your daughter’s health that you ask yourself, “was that really necessary to share?”.
I share my blog posts on my Facebook page and have a fairly large following who read them. It’s become almost comical to me how people feel like they can’t bring up what I share in person. I’ve had many people almost whisper to me in public “I read your blog all the time”. I know and I am grateful for that. That is why I share it. It’s strange though how awkward it becomes say, at the doctor’s office, when I go for a follow up on being prescribed a new anti-depressant and I am looked at and almost treated as a “rush order”. It’s as if because I openly admitted I have a mental illness (I really hate that term by the way) I have a psychotic stamped, VIP pass. It’s like their thinking, “quick get this bitch in the back, she has been off her meds for a while and we may have to break out the restraints any minute”. It’s funny really actually. These thoughts that are shared all over our faces due solely because of what we share online.
This topic is a bit more difficult to write about. I’m somewhat ashamed of what I am about to admit to but I don’t think I’m alone. I also think this is something that needs attention brought it. Facebook has become a platform for sharing personal struggles with illnesses, heartbreaking news stories, missing loved ones, awareness about animal abuse and many other issues that pull at our heartstrings. This is especially true when photos are attached, which is almost always. I am guilty of scurrying to move my feed along as soon as I see a picture of a child enduring chemo or a missing child or anything related to someone that has been hurt or is hurting. It’s not because I don’t care. It’s because I am one of those people that have a mind that gets stuck on sad. If I can’t do something to help a situation, and even when I can, it haunts me. I chose to stop watching the news about a year ago for that reason.
I physically cannot handle heartbreaking stories, especially when they involve children. After the shootings at Sandy Hook happened, I stayed off of Facebook for weeks because all the superficialness seemed completely irrelevant but also becasue I could not handle the pictures of the kids. Admitting that makes me feel guilty because perhaps I am not the realist that I claim to be. Perhaps what’s worse is the other day, I became annoyed at how many pictures of missing people were coming through my feed. Immediately after that thought occurred in my head, I was absolutely shaken at the idea that I had no emotional reaction to those pictures. I, and I believe so many others, have become desensitized to other peoples heartbreaking struggles because of the rate they are seen on Facebook. I am ashamed that I felt that way but it was an honest reaction that I am sharing with you. What makes the desensitization even more powerful, I believe, is the fact that these are usually pictures of people we have no personal ties to. That shouldn’t matter but I think it does.
Being desensitized to what are and should be highly emotional situations can be dangerous. My belief stems not only from my reaction to Facebook feeds but also from having worked in the field of mental health. The words “burned out” are almost a staple in conversation among those in the field. Once you are in a “burned out” cycle, you tend to loose the human connection necessary to effectively care for that population. I can contribute the same problem to heartbreaking stories being constantly shared on Facebook. I think we are all feeling less and less pulls on our heart strings. Those pulls are absolutely necessary. I don’t believe over all empathy within the human race is being destroyed by Facebook; however, I do believe it isn’t helping the cause any.
Do you believe we are doing our kids an injustice by making their childhoods so transparent? Have you ever had an incredibly awkward moment in conversation because of something you posted or forgot you posted? Have you ever found yourself annoyed at the not so feel good stories shared of Facebook?