What Kind of Parent Would I Be If There Was No Social Media? By Melissa Lipnick
I need to imagine for a moment how I would parent you, if there was no social media.
Your clothes would be delightfully mismatched, used, and peppered with cartoon characters, because I would never have been swept away by images of full families that are adorned in organic beige and white draping fabrics.
If there was no social media, we would spend summers at the pool instead of farm camps, truck-paloozas, measuring the number of our outdoor hours and critiquing the quality of our indoor time. You would gulp a mouthful of chlorine-filled water, and I would be too ignorant to spend the remainder of the day watching you like a hawk for dry-drowning symptoms.
I'm fairly certain that if there was no social media, you would be munching on frosted cereal and chicken nuggets, instead of the sprouted cacao krispies and tofu I feed you now. You're healthier, but are you happier?
I would send you to the nearest elementary school with a kiss and a shove, if there was no social media. If I took a first/last day photo (I wouldn't), it would be pasted in your scrapbook that I never finish, and not uploaded to be viewed by my closest friends, acquaintances, past coworkers, present circle, and the extended relatives we have never met. Your entry to and from school would be less affirming, but perhaps the uneventful would be more than enough.
There would certainly be a lot more money in my pocket. That just goes without saying. (Darn those glossy social media ads!)
I would likely still document each funny or remarkable thing you do, because that's just who I am. The difference would be in the lens. Instead of nudging your silly antics in the direction of consumable content, I would do more noticing and less marketing. Our daily life could be as boring as we liked. I would not be a reporter with a news feed. Your triumphs would be yours alone, and not material to share. There may be less notoriety, but certainly there would be more authenticity.
I think my mind would be quieter, if there was no social media. With less platforms to stand on, there are less people shouting to be heard. It's so loud out here in the virtual world, I can't hear myself think. Did you really want to play soccer or did I see that someone else's kid was playing and thought I'd screw you up if I didn't sign you up too? Video games are bad. Video games are good. I can't keep track, there's a lot of experts and research and voices telling me what we can and cannot do. Suddenly I realize I cannot trust anyone because social media levels a playing field, and it reveals we are all just grown up kids trying to figure it out. Some may be more intellectual, some may be more spiritual, and others possess more currency. We all, it turns out, just really, really want to be liked. The mystique of those possessive attributes are unveiled and the doors to our homes flung open. And it reminds me of how much stock we have placed in an invisible connector that could be pulled out from beneath our feet without a moment's notice. I like to feel connected, we say. Feel is the operative word, because I feel like I need to be every kind of parent that profiles their life, and I'm really confused now as to who I would be if none of it existed.
It strikes me that I want you to take far more risks then we let our researched, civilized, intellectualized minds allow now. When you are 18 and you go out in the world, I really just want one thing of you – come back home alive. I will try to protect you less from the hidden dangers (in a developmentally age-appropriate, screen-time measured, diet restricted way, of course), and you in turn, please just come home once in awhile with sound body, mind, and spirit. Ok, just one more request: when you resent me for the mistakes I made, please spare a little gratitude: I tried really hard to stay away from the screen, and attempted mess up this parenting thing as much as I could. It was for your own good. You'll thank me someday, I hope.
Written by Melissa Lipnick, a writer and artist in Cleveland, Ohio.