I cannot imagine being a teenager in today’s world. Their number one news source is articles shared by peers with their personal opinion preceding every un-fact-checked story. Their popularity is based on how much attention their post on any one of their six billion social media platforms receives, and every gathering they are not invited to is thrown in their face not only through photos, but now it’s also all streamed LIVE. Can. You. Imagine?
They see the world through Internet sensations, celebrities, and those who hit it big for their talent in photo-filtering, traveling the world, dining in fancy restaurants decked out in the latest fashion trends on their private jets, then relaxing in their perfectly put together living spaces. They no longer strive to be the next best lawyer or life-changing medical researcher. They aspire to have as many likes they can get or to be the latest person who has achieved more than 10,000 followers on their Instagram account.
There is a real danger in the culture we live in today driven by social media where inaccurate perceptions of one’s own life, and the lives of others, are rapidly growing at an astounding rate. Our next generation is now largely living a life based on likes, and we need to watch ourselves to make sure we aren’t falling victim either.
Sadly, the effects of social media and cyber bullying is not only limited to our teenagers. In the adult world, social media highlights the perfect, domestic homemaker, Pinterest-worthy children’s bento boxes, luxurious trips to the Swiss Alps, friends’ homes featured on Houzz, tip-topped dressed babies from bows to toes, social events we wished we were a part of, and on, and on. Lest we not dive into the passive aggressive posts, cringe-worthy hashtags, and basing self-worth on how someone reacted (or did not react) to our latest post.
How do we help ourselves and children to avoid falling victim this cultural addiction?
Recognize When Social Media Becomes Toxic
When our relationships are affected by our online presence, there is a real problem. Social media should not ruin relationships, nor should it affect our moods in a negative way. It is okay to “unfollow” people whose posts have a negative effect on you while remaining friends. Setting up specific social media time, as well as boundaries and parameters for your children, helps avoid the addiction to connectivity. I don’t know about you, but one of the first things I do over a cup of coffee is catch up on my newsfeed, but this can easily set the tone for my day. We simply can’t afford to start the day with an extra dose of negativity.
Perception Is Not Reality
Reinforce that perception is not reality. While this seems like common sense to us, it is not to everyone, especially our youth. That post of a playdate at the park that you weren’t invited to? It wasn’t planned. Two of your friends just happened to run into each other. That super cute girl with the trendiest clothes? In reality, she would trade those clothes in a heartbeat to have a relationship with her father. We need to reinforce to our children that what we see on social media is not a representation of reality. Raise a silent hand if you, too, have fallen victim to a little frustration of seeing how you were left out of a party only to find out, it wasn’t exactly as it seemed.
Comparison Is the Thief of Joy
An age old adage that us mamas can’t say enough: Comparison is most certainly the thief of joy. The earlier our children grasp this concept, the better they will be able to cope with these fictitious, and one in a million profiles on the interwebs. We will never achieve happiness if our gauge is someone else unless we use that comparison to motivate us to strive for more. Instead, when our children are down comparing themselves to others, we are to lift them up and raise their confidence while reminding them that we are not measured by our social media presence.
Know Your Self Worth
Who we are and the love we receive from others isn’t measured by the reactions of others. Our self-worth is greater than any “like” on social media, any party we are left out of. Our identity should not rely on what we look like online, but instead in who we are in the flesh and our personal interactions with those around us, those who invest in us face to face. Our children’s self-worth and value starts in the home; we must help our children know their identity and impact on this world in the physical, not in cyberspace.
Be Both Transparent and Thoughtful
We not only have a role in guarding our own responses to how social media affects us, but we also have a responsibility in how we portray ourselves so others perceive us accurately. Teaching our children and ourselves to think: Why am I sharing this? Why have I chosen this hashtag? How could others take this share or this post? What does this action say about me, helps us to have pure motivations when sharing pieces of our lives. Before making a post, teaching our children to understand that if we know what brings up emotion within us, we should be careful to not repeat that behavior in how we represent ourselves online.
We are navigating uncharted waters in raising the iChild generation, but if we know anything, it is that social media is not going anywhere. Our children are warned daily of the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and the consequences of sexual behavior, so to avoid living a dangerous life based on likes, we must acknowledge the effects that social media has on children and foster a generation who are able to see its benefits wisely while knowing how to cope with its weaknesses.