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?
9 thoughts on “Newborn Selfies, Awkward Small Talk and Desensitization”
I shared so much on facebook, but when the kids became little kids as opposed to toddlers, I thought maybe I should stop posting their photos online. I also don ‘t trust myself to keep up with facebook’s ever-changing settings. It is great to see my relatives in New York.. Otherwise I just wouldn’t know them at all. They can’t come home to Ireland very often.. I haven’t had any negative moments on facebook. Just dodgy photos! I hate meeting friends and trying to tell them my news and they ‘re like yeah saw that on facebook already..
I love your honesty. Speaking so frankly is definitely helping people. Kudos to you! :0)
Oh the dreaded “I know, I saw it on Facebook”. That’s the awkward moment I was trying to capture. I have definitely started paying more attention to what I share. I’ve always been pretty conservative about it but even more so now. I wish more people were.
Thanks for your kind words as always. I’ve wanted to write about the desensitization piece of this for awhile but couldn’t find the words. Once I decided to share my own faults, it kinda just flowed. Another lesson on authenticity for me I suppose.
It’s really great. In Ireland everyone is talking and trying to become more aware. There’s a big drive to promote awareness.. I think I probably told you about that before. I had PnD and didn’t really talk about it. I sensed people didn’t want to go there. My brother has been on anti-depressants for a few months now and the different attitude to him in amazing. We all ask freely how he’s doing ( he’s doing great) and he’s so happy to talk about it. Attitudes here are changing even in a few short years.
So good to see it and to help poor people who are suffering to feel less alone.
I have thought a lot about the whole posting-your-kids-life on facebook thing. It seems weird that eventually a kid will be old enough to join facebook and they could potentially be tagged in photos that trace back to them in utero. It’s awkward that our lives are now playing out in such a public way from day zero. I also think its weird when people share their parenting struggles– like “I found my 10 year old surfing porn, what do I do?” It seems really inconsiderate for a network of people to know details like that about someone who didn’t share it themselves. It’s all kind of convoluted but I feel like this will be discussed much more as this next generation steps up.
It’s mind blowing to me what people share as far as their kids are concerned. Appropriateness seems to not matter to some as long as they get a few “likes” out of it. I can’t even imagine how this is all going to play out as these kids grow up. “Tagged in utero”…that may end up in the DSM some day.
i wrote something a few weeks ago about social media and it’s overuse! You are definately not alone, I pass through the pictures and pages of kids with illnesses etc. I feel bad doing that, but it’s just hard for me to see. It’s one of the reasons that i can’t be a pediatric nurse. Too sad for me to see. I also appreciate your openess and honesty regarding mental illness. I think that not being honest, and people not getting the proper treatment is one of the things wrong with the U.S. today. Hence the many shootings that we are seeing as a common occurrence today. Great post!
After writing this post, I realized that I can’t feel bad for scrolling past the pictures of sick, hurt and lost people. I’m not being naïve about those things happening, I am just choosing to seek out the good instead of focus on the bad. Your words about people not receiving the treatment they need rings so true. I wish more people got that.
great post (as i procrastinate studying for my first exam on monday). i deleted my FB page and it came back like herpes, i don’t care for the impersonal nature of FB. i will eventually start deleting one person at a time until only 8 or 9 people remain. those are the ones i truly care about. exposure does desensitize. i was watching some Bruce Willis movie and the nurse told bruce that the kid was autistic. bruce said, “so no information gets in?” the nurse replied, “no. the opposite. everything gets in.” that defines me pretty much. i feel everything. the only way for me to stop feeling everything, is to shut down completely. and that’s not good. i feel like that kid in yet another bruce willis movie, “i see dead people.” only i see pain, suffering, misery, violence, evil, injustice and i can’t stop seeing it. i can’t stop feeling it. being on medication has helped tremendously. i don’t have to carry everything all by myself. writing has been working too. and therapy also. and sleeping. and drinking. and masturbation. i get my relief where i can.
Thanks for reading…this was a bit of a long one for me. I’m glad someone else sees how dangerous desensitization can actually be. I don’t think enough people get that. Good luck on your exam!