I received a note from a friend, “I am so ticked at the moment.” She wrote. “Apparently, if you post stuff on Facebook, you have communicated with your friends.”
Her gripe concerned one of her friends, who recently had a biopsy and posted the results (clear) on Facebook. See, my friend is not on Facebook, and she found out about her friend’s biopsy and the results of the biopsy through her husband, who saw it posted on Facebook. My friend then wondered, “Maybe we aren’t really as good of friends as I had thought.”
My friend’s thoughts are timely. On March 28, 2011, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a clinical report pertaining to social media and kids. The press release, which highlights the full report, is titled “Social Media and Kids: Some Benefits, Some Worries“, and the full report is titled “The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents and Families“. Though my friend and I are in our 40s, the AAP’s article applies to us, too. (Perhaps the American Association of Retired People will release a similar report soon. After all, AAP is one letter away from AARP.)
The report provides information on the latest research regarding social media. Specifically, the report recommends how “pediatricians, parents and youth can successfully navigate this new mode of communication.” New mode of communication. Yep, according to this report, if you’ve Facebooked the news, you’ve communicated with your friends.
“For some teens and tweens, social media is the primary way they interact socially, rather than the mall or a friend’s house.” said Gwenn O’Keeffe, MD, FAAP, co-author of the clinical report. “A large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the internet and on cell phones. Parents need to understand these technologies so they can relate to their children’s online world – and comfortably parent in that world.”
With all due respect to Dr. O’Keeffe, I think parents need to understand the impact (importance?) of these technologies in their own life before they can attempt to understand how these technologies impact their child’s online world. Let’s be honest, raise your hand if you have a Facebook and/or Twitter account. And, keep your hand raised if you have kids and/or are above the age of 30. See? Look at all those raised hands! Bob, stop texting for one second, or raise your hand with your cell phone in it; I don’t care which you do, but your hand should be raised.
We lead by example. And by ‘we’ I mean us. And by ‘us’, I mean anyone and everyone reading this post. Whether you are a parent, singleton, child, adult or alien from another planet, your actions influence the behaviors of others. Yes Virginia, even your actions influence others.
Now, I am not trying to bash social media. I have both a Facebook and Twitter account. I gave both accounts up for Lent, and I miss my daily dose of Facebook and Twitter. Plus, if it were not for social media, I would be unable to keep in touch with my niece, currently hiking the Appalachian Trail. With the help of a trail journal website, I am able to get information on what my niece is doing and experiencing. In addition, through SPOT satellite messaging, I know exactly where she is located.
Conversely, because of social media, I am unable to interact as much as I’d like with one of my nephews, because he only communicates through Facebook and texting. My nephew is a Shirt.Woot fanatic, like me. He also has great taste in movies. If he accessed his email, I’d write him and tell him we watched the movie RocknRolla (per his suggestion) and loved it. I’d also let him know that I have Layer Cake in my possession, and I hope to see it later this week. Instead, I have to rely on talking to my nephew in person and through notes on cards. (His birthday is April 1st, no fooling; so, I do have a note in the mail to him.)
Social media has changed the landscape of friendships, and relationships in general. Making friends has become incredibly easy with Facebook. By the same token, I believe social media has changed how the word friend is defined. As I mentioned in a previous post about friends, Eskimos have 26 different words for snow. With social media, I believe we are increasing the number of words for friend. Not everyone we call friend is like the friend we had in elementary school, high school, college, etc.
Yes, we all need to realize how social media and the Internet is changing our social and emotional interactions with our so-called friends. The younger generation doesn’t know any different. Friendships have always been ‘online’ for them. We all know you can’t miss what you don’t know. But the older generation? We know what we are missing, even as we continue to gravitate towards online relationships; and as we continue to gain new ‘friends’, I believe the we – the older generation – miss the ‘old days’, when there was only one word for friend.