I was shocked when I received a friend’s 10-year child asking to be my friend on Facebook. It set me back that this young soul is being exposed to the harsh reality of the social internet. While we are not one to withhold the realities of life from our child, we do not expose him to the social side of the internet; not just yet. There are far too many “internet warriors” out there and who are not in the right mindset. I am not talking about the sexual predators and the evil-doers, they are everywhere. I am talking about the finger pointers, lynch-mobbers and the “negative Nancies”. I simply need a little more time to build up his self-confidence and mindset before he becomes exposed to the unbridled online world of “free speech”. Some may see this as being over-protective, I see it as being pro-active. He will eventually become an online socialite, but until then, we need to parent a little bit more to build up his defences.
This brought me to think about my own childhood. I grew up in the 80’s, it was the tail-end of the acceptable smoking lifestyle. My parents could smoke in McDonald’s and I can still remember playing with the little disposable aluminum ashtrays they had on the tables that had the “Golden Arches” stamped in the flat tray area. You could smoke in shopping mall corridors and I remember waiting around for my father to finish his smoke so I could go into a department store to check out the toy section. When I got a little older, I remember going in alone to explore. Smoking was acceptable then but the mood was changing; cigarettes “can” cause lung cancer! To a kid growing up in this era, it was understood that only grown-ups could smoke, I wasn’t allowed. When I would venture to question the law of smoking, “because it’s bad for you” was the response. “So if it’s so bad, why do you do it?” I would think to myself.
By and large, social media is not good for you. There are a few instances where it works well but for every 1 nugget of goodness that there is, there are 4 nuggets of bad. I know I am sounding negative here, but it is the truth. I almost never feel good after my experiences with social media. Over the years, I have been able to control my emotions and have adapted properly to the online social phenomena, but as a rule, I always feel better after interacting with someone face-to-face; even if the interaction is not favourable. This comes down to our primal instinct to connect physically. Like smoking, I always craved that smoke, but I always felt unfulfilled after I squashed that butt. I was looking for something more. Until we evolve to physically connect through electrons shared over a fibre line, social media will never feel like a true genuine connection. Like smoking, social media is just another addiction to distract our brains from what it is lacking. We smoke to reduce stress, aid in social situations, attain social status and to kill time. Isn’t that what we do when we consume social media streams? Instead of blowing smoke, we simply stare at our phones and blow off our nearby friends.
I have to wonder if someday there will come a time when social media will become the pariah of our social circles. That the dude off in the corner consuming his Instagram feed will be looked at the same as the guy standing at the street corner sucking on a Marlboro. I wonder when we will see TV and radio commercials about laser treatments to cure your addiction to Facebook games and Snapchat pictures. Will there be social media consumption tables at restaurants or Facebook isles on airplanes? Will social media consumption in large doses cause social cancer or some other horrific disease of the mind? While naive to believe so, I have to hope that when my son becomes ready to consume the social media lifestyle, by then it will have been a passing fad and ostracized like the cigarette packages of today. Until then, he can remain friends socially… without the media. He isn’t grown up to smoke yet.