I recently started reading the book, “Brave, Not Perfect” by Reshma Saujani, a book I got for my birthday from Jake (he knows me well). I’m a fan of most self help, motivational books so it’s no surprise that I enjoy this one too. However, this one is actually a bit different – it definitely has a great message of “don’t wait for perfection, start before you’re ready.” But also it’s about helping young kids (mainly girls) stop striving for perfection so that they can open themselves up to the same opportunities that boys jump into throughout their lives.
I won’t go through all of what this means but I will say if you want to better understand the state of kids in the digital age…read this. It’s a hard pill to swallow but definitely something we all should be aware of as parents.
But there are two things from this book that hit home for me right out the gate (seriously I’m only about 50 pages in)…
1. The toxicity of social media and our need for validation.
2. How important it is to jump outside your comfort zone occasionally.
So let’s break down #1 in this post …
Okay. You and I are both adults. We know right from wrong (most of the time). We know how the rise of the internet and social media has done a lot of great things for the world…but we also know it has opened up a world of bad things we had never encountered before. Even still…we get caught up in certain bad behaviors…
- We spread fake news (sometimes on purpose but mostly by accident)
- We judge people’s political beliefs without ever having a real face to face conversation with them
- We openly tweet at celebrities and tell them when they’ve done something wrong, wore something hideous, made a bad choice or mocked them just for sh*** and giggles (they’re not real people, obviously)
And even the worst of us sink to lower, darker levels…
- Leaving nasty comments on videos and pictures
- Harassing young kids
- Openly airing dirty laundry with friends and family on Facebook for all to see
- trolling specific people and continuously calling them names and hurling insults at them
Again. We are ADULTS and we partake in these behaviors.
Now imagine you’re a 10 year old girl. And you post a picture of ice cream. And the first comment from some immature school mate says “EWWWWW….is that poop?!?!” That is basically how you start your young adult life. A nasty comment on literally the most innocent thing you could have posted. FYI this is an actual example from the book above.
From there…it gets worse. So much worse.
Peer pressure from your friends is magnified. If you’re not on [insert hottest social media platform] then you’re not a part of the conversation and then you’re not a part of the joke and then you’re not cool and then you’re not worth hanging out with. That’s just your so called friends.
Everything you post is ALSO subject to criticism by everyone in your school. EVERYONE!! word spreads like wild fire when you make the stupidest mistake.
And your parents? They’d be your safe haven, right? Well, maybe not. You’re also a part of their identity and they want to post a million pictures of you too. Pictures that your friends now see and judge. Is it their right to post or yours?
Now, anyone in their right mind would just not partake. They’d just exit the situation, right? Wrong. NONE OF US EXIT. Okay maybe a few. But a very small few.
So why do we let all this happen? Why do we continue to let this level of abuse among ourselves and our kids and everyone around us take place?
It’s all about the likes. And the followers. And the well wishers. For 100 bad things you encounter on social media, each like or validating comment is like a drug hit that keeps you coming back for more. We let a lot of crap go down in front of us for that validation.
You might even say that blogging is a form of validation and I’m partaking right now – just counting up the page views and the comments I get. Well guess what…you would not be wrong. I’ll admit I don’t write as much as I used to but when I do…I like to see who’s paying attention.
When I post on Instagram, I constantly hit refresh to see my like count or to see who has commented.
But, if I can give you my holier-than-thou schpeel for a minute, I’d let you know that because of the toxicity listed above, I’ve taken steps to significantly cut down my social media usage. I’m not on Facebook or twitter (3 years clean!!) and I’ve cut down the posts I put on Instagram, who I choose to follow on Instagram and how often I’m allowed to check Instagram. I no longer have the app on my phone either and can only log in from an internet browser.
Okay done with my holier-than-thou schpeel.
I get that going cold turkey and removing yourself from social media is tough and probably not realistic for many. I still can’t actually deactivate Instagram. And my job requires me to be on LinkedIn. But I remember the constant itch to go on Facebook when I shut that down. You truly feel like you’re missing out. You’re not in on the jokes (just like kids without smart phones!). You miss the nuanced happenings of the neighborhood watch. You miss keeping up on the happenings of family and friends. And your school even posts things there that keep you in the know!
But I also know this…it’s not the end of the world. And guess what- there’s not a lot of important information you’ll miss out on that you can’t get through other means (am I the only one that gets 10 emails a day from my kids school, the district and the PTA?).
And although our kids will never be done feeling that peer pressure until they become adults and finally decide who they want to be and how they want to live…we as adults CAN make those decisions right now. We have the luxury of not playing into the toxicity of social media. We CAN ignore the people that are mean spirited towards us. We have that capacity!!
Now as for what to do about my own kid short of moving to the mountains, becoming hill people and living off the land? I really don’t have a good answer yet. I’m hoping to study up the next year or so before he gets subjected to all this but one thing I know for sure- I’m going to do my best to keep the lines of communication open. And hopefully I can start to show him concrete examples of good online behavior and bad online behavior so he’s not the kid thinking he made a funny poop joke about ice cream that really ends up becoming the reason some girl needs therapy in the future.
Okay so I’m gonna wrap this up here. Social media is icky – that’s just how I feel. We should be careful.
If you like it and you think it makes you a brighter person, good!!
If you’re not sure…take a minute to think about how much time you spend going on it. If the answer is shocking, maybe try a social cleanse for a bit (like a juice cleanse but for social media…just give it up for a bit to get rid of some toxins. 😁).
Finally, this explosion of “what’s the worst that could happen?!?” Is actually not all from the book mentioned above. I actually read a book a couple months detailing a lot of the nastiness of social media for teenage girls…it is heart wrenching but definitely a must read for all parents with kids entering the digital age. And seeing that in another book has just got me twirly all over again.
Here’s the amazon link to THAT book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0804173184/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_tlyMCbKMKHGZW
I’ll post a link to “brave, not perfect” in part 2 of this post. I also promise it will be less preachy. 🙌
Alright, calling it a night! Don’t be a troll!!