A False Reality

If only Alexander had a blog....

I had an interesting conversation with a friend this evening at Panera about the false reality that blogging and social media creates. I’m afraid I’m guilty of contributing to this. I don’t want to write about “Tina and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” When I write, it is my goal to encourage others. My mother taught me long ago that whining is not allowed. Thus, I tend to write cheerfully or not at all. Yet, just in case anyone is wondering, my house is a mess, my children often fuss, I sometimes spend the whole day in my pajamas and occasionally I’m just plain old grumpy and have to apologize to my family for sporting a ‘tude. I’m selfish with my time. I’m impatient. My three year old watches way too many videos. I haven’t exercised in 8 days. There. Feel better?

Seriously, I think that blogging, facebook, twitter (which I don’t use) and whatever other social media exists can create a false reality and this can be damaging – especially to our young people. Those of us who grew up without knowing everyone’s business also know that just as we untag ugly pictures of ourselves, everyone else does too. We know our friends’ two year olds throw fits once in a while. No one’s life is perfect. However, our teens don’t realize this. They see the parties they missed. They see “wall to wall” conversations they weren’t invited to join. They wonder if they are the only ones having to work on a snow day when, according to status updates, everyone else is on the slopes. They spend ridiculous amounts of time looking at their friends’ smiley albums and videos. They wonder why no one “likes” what they say or do. They feel left out, alone and maybe even depressed. Compared to the very happy life of their facebook and bloggy friends, their life stinks.

It’s up to us (parents) to help our teens with reality checks. These are some of my thoughts of things we can do:

1. Encourage them to be sensitive with their own postings.

My girls have seen many party pictures they wish they’d attended. Thus, when one of my girls took fun videos at her birthday, I encouraged her not to post the video for all her friends to see. I reminded her that not all of her friends were invited. I had to limit the guests to about 8 so I could fit everyone in my van. “How would you feel if _____ saw this?” What started off as a fun way to relive a silly moment could easily hurt a friend. Needless to say, the video wasn’t posted publicly. Teaching children to think about others is important. Of course, we can’t control what others post but in talking about such situations, our teens can learn that usually, if they feel left out, it’s not the intent of their “friends” for them to feel that way.

2. Help them to invest in real life friendships.

Being the social director of teens and tweens is hard, but I think it is very, very important. They are driven to want to be around their peers. When my children were little, I did not drive them around to play dates often. I had 5 children under the age of 7 and couldn’t handle more than that. They played with one another. They still do. However, now they crave friendships outside of the family and I believe that is because they are hard-wired that way. They won’t be under my roof forever. Investing in relationships is healthy. Learning to be a loyal friend is important. I am so thankful that all my children have meaningful, deep friendships. They don’t need 700 facebook friends. What they need are a few (or even one!) dear real life friends whom they really know. Real friends bring joy!

3. Limit their time on facebook, blogs, etc.

Our kids need to be doing other things. They need to be living – not just watching others live.

4. Help them stay active.

Everyone needs to get their wiggles out. Even teens. (Even moms, I think). Exercise produces endorphins which really do make you happy – much more so than looking at other peoples’ vacation pictures.

5. Talk, talk, talk to them about everything!

I’ve asked my girls many, many times details about their friends’ posts. My girls are often shocked that I notice issues and bring them to their attention. My point is that I want my children to see that public postings are viewed by everyone on their friends’ list – even old people like their mother. It’s my goal for them to evaluate everything they say and learn not to take everything they read at face value.

6. Direct them to daily count their blessings.

Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience has taught me so much about gratitude. This discipline is life changing.

7. Model responsibility.

I hope my children see me investing WAY more in real life friendships than any social media. I pray they see me active – working in my home and investing in REALITY! They are my reality. My husband is my reality. My church and my friends and extended family are my reality. I pray they would see me use social media as a way to minister; to see needs and meet them… not to gossip or value someone else’s world more than my own!

How about you? Have you been affected by this “false reality” world of social media? I have, on occasion, and when I am I know it’s time to take a break from it and refocus! Have your children experienced this? What have you done to help them with reality checks?

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3 Responses to “A False Reality”

  1. Cindy Says:

    I just directed some moms over here. Apparently, grown-ups have the same problem teens do with FB. LOL. :0)

  2. Amy Foote Says:

    Tina, I came across this blog entry while doing a google search on “facebook false reality” I got sucked into this! WHile going though some real life struggles I found that I began spending less and less time in face to face fellowship with fiends, and instead communicated with them mostly via FB. My house was a mess, I became less productive and my time was being sucked up quickly.
    I am now trying to limit my fb time to an hour a day. This is a great post, I think you hit the nail on the head! Thanks!

  3. Amy Foote Says:

    BTW-Big Ann Voskamp fan myself 🙂

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