A Note To My Kids On Social Media.
You watch me scroll. You watch me smile or frown or yell for your Daddy to “Listen to this.“ I’ve hurt my neck looking down at it; I’ve hurt my hand typing. I’ve hurt feelings with words I’ve said or didn’t. I’ve had mine hurt, too.
And so now, you’re finally ready to ask me – Mommy, what are you doing???
Of course, that followed, the five “Mommy, look at this,” and “Mommy, hear me” pleas that echoed as I read what I had made more important at that moment.
And so I admit —
I am on Facebook. On Instagram. On Twitter, Pinterest or whatever. They feel like fire as I speak them; I know the time they burn up.
And yet, still, they feel like friends – because that’s where so many of my friends are, and I get updates and prayer requests and a peek into life stories that are so beautiful and brave and unique.
So I ask myself –
How to explain social media to a generation that has never known this world without it.
I can confess what comes to mind first:
It’s mommy’s addiction. It’s mommy’s distraction. But that’s not pretty enough.
So I revise —
It keeps us connected, keeps us close, keeps us aware of how to help when we can. But I think of the fights that started, the feelings hurt and learning what to “unfriend” meant. I think of hate spewed, even in the name of a better way. That’s not true enough.
So I revise —
It helps us share our passions, share our hearts, share these thoughts on mine right now. And I remember the posts ignored and the affirmation that never came. That’s not comforting enough.
So I sigh. And I turn the phone off. And I hide it from myself for awhile as I think. And we eat, and we play, and after a kiss and tuck into bed, I am ready.
So here goes —
Some advice to my kids on this thing called social media.
There’s no easy way to define it. There’s no way to sugar-coat it, either. It has become an addiction, a distraction, and at 3am, sometimes, the only listening friend. It has shared good news; it has brought messages of hope, and it has enabled hurt to fester. A friend and a foe.
So, I ask you to do better.
Be lesser. In a world that is quick to make everything about “me” — there are others, too. Know when to help and when to ignore. Look for who needs to be listened to. Search your heart for how to hear.
Be wiser. Investigate. Learn who can be trusted. Look for what motivates each voice. It is not your place to change them. It is your place to share your story and where your hope is found.
Be patient. A quick response is not always the best one.
Be social. Turn off the phone, the watch, the computer. Say things out loud and make eye contact. Give a hand shake, a hug or high-five. Laugh, cry tears. Face to face.
Use it for good. Not for popularity. Not for competition. Not for starting fights that you wouldn’t start with him or her staring back. Because even when you say something that you think is in defense or in honor or in hopes of making better change – it is not always what you say – but how you say it that gets heard.
And finally, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not stopping that first time you said my name. And I’m sorry for letting things upset me and show you how selfish I am. I want to make a change. You see, my worth – your worth – our worth as a nation or a people at all — does not come from a photo or a video that was seen or shared.
And a little red digital heart will never matter as much as the one God set to beat before you were born.
We must reclaim the value of a human being. We must stop letting our language turn into hate, while suggesting we speak up for love. Your approach matters. Living love is what matters.
Because what’s written on a Facebook wall or in an Instagram feed doesn’t come close to mattering as much as what is written on your heart. Search. It. — first.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11
Friends, life is cruel. WE ARE CRUEL. We must do good to each other and to ourselves. Let us pause each time before we press “post” and consider the motive of our hearts. How can we share our passions without appearing mean-hearted? Let us look up and look to God first. He tells us. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6