Ice Buckets, Social Media, and Social Identity

social media

The power of social media is amazing. According to Forbes.com, almost 16 million dollars have been donated to ALS research since July 29th. Compare this to a meager 1.8 million raised in the same time period last year. The difference – social media. I love that social media can be used for such good in the world; however, with good there is also another side to social media.

Social media can be positive or negative depending on how it is used; however, one of the main problems today is many students have no idea how to separate themselves from social media. Adults can no longer deny that our students’ identities are being shaped by social media.

I recently heard an interview on a local radio station with some 20 somethings on social media. These girls talked about how they would get dressed up, go out, take selfies or pose for pictures, post them on their social media of choice, and all sit on their phones at the restaurant/bar and wait for likes or comments. Generation Y and an increasingly number of other generations seem more concerned about the appearance of living a fun/important/cool/purposeful/fill-in-your-adjective life rather than living a fun/important/cool/purposeful/fill-in-your-adjective life. Stop and think about that for a moment. We are more focused on appearance than reality.

Solutions:

Take regularly media breaks. Turn your phone/computer/tablet, etc. off while you are on vacation. Better yet, take a weekly Sabbath from media. This allows you to be alone with your thoughts. I wonder if sometimes we are afraid to take a break from social media because we don’t want to be alone with our thoughts. Think about that on your media fast.

Think about when you post. After passing back essays one day, I was explaining to the class some of the issues with the essays and noticed a girl on her phone. This girl in particular needed to be listening to my expository on how to improve writing; instead, she was tweeting out that she failed an essay. #donttweetinmyclass We are missing out on moments because of our engagement with social media. Choose to be engaged in relationships, people, and moments not electronics.

Let your thought life be your guide. If you are thinking on a regular basis, “This would make a great tweet/post,” you have a social media addiction. A great exercise to combat this addictive behavior is to purposefully not tweet or post what you immediately think is tweet worthy.

Remember that everyone else has a social identity. Christmas cards are always somewhat depressing for me. While I admittedly have amazing friends, every year my mailbox is full of letters detailing how perfect everyone’s family is. Kid 1 is being scouted by the majors even though he’s only in 7th grade. In spite of being only eight years old, Kid 2 has already made a perfect score on the SAT and has a binding commitment to Harvard when she graduates. Dad just got a huge raise allowing the family to go on an around-the-world cruise, and Mom has started modeling part-time. Is it just me or are there other families who live ordinary lives? I have to remind myself that a lot of what I read on social media is the perception people want me to have of them. Much like me wanting all of you think I’m funny all of the time.

If you’re a parent, monitor, monitor, monitor your child’s social media sites. Have regular conversations with your child about social media. Parents cannot afford to be ignorant of the digital life of their kids.

Be real on social media. You don’t have to post all of your garbage, but don’t be afraid to put less than flattering pictures or anecdotes online. When an adult has the ability to laugh at him or herself, students feel more freedom to do the same.

What did I leave out? How do you keep perception versus reality in check on social media?

For more on social media and kids, read this:

https://susangbarber.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/what-happens-in-vegas-stays-on-instagram/

 

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