I have a love-hate relationship with social media.
On the one hand, it has played a pivotal role in sky-rocketing my career both as a freelance writer and an e-commerce marketer. When I say I couldn’t live without social media – that’s not hyperbole or exaggeration. Social media is what helps me put food on the table and clothes on my kid’s back.
On the other hand, I think it has created a toxic climate of misplaced hatred and undeserved self-entitlement. And to be completely transparent, I myself have fallen victim to its insidious trap.
Social media has been monumentally instrumental in giving human beings a “safe-space” to express their opinions and thoughts. It has given everyone a “voice” and that can be very powerful and equally dangerous for a plethora of reasons – far too many to broach in this one article.
So, let’s focus on how social media has (and will continue) to obliterate every learning opportunity we as parents have to instill in our children humbleness, respect, and common decency.
Up until people started actively participating in social media and interjecting their opinions into every social, political, economic, and religious issue brought to the table, the average person had a fundamental understanding of social graces. We understood we wouldn’t always agree with our neighbor or in-laws, but we practiced politeness and respect. These were also important qualities to teach our offspring.
And when our children DIDN’T respect their elders and authority or if they bullied other kids in school, there were consequences. Just because our youth didn’t agree with or like other people didn’t give them allowance to express contempt or spew hatred. If anything, such situations were an opportune moment to teach diplomacy and self-restraint.
But the introduction of blogs, comment sections, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and thousands of other online forums have cultivated a noxious environment in which everyone is emboldened to not only voice their opinion but tear down anyone that doesn’t agree with it. And that is a PARTICULARLY harmful and misguided belief to instill in an impressionable teenager who is already struggling with impulsive behavior, erratic emotions, and a sense of self.
Melanie Trump’s efforts to bring awareness to online bullying has largely been met with insolence and flippancy, and I get it. There are hundreds of other issues that seem far direr and pressing than people running their trap online.
But it actually IS a huge issue. It’s especially critical right now because more and more children are being raised in a culture that reinforces the gross misperception that their opinions ALWAYS matter and their words have no ramifications or consequences. This, in turn, breeds a sense of self-entitlement that will follow our kids into adulthood.
Unfortunately, children learn by example and adults are just as guilty of contributing to the impetuous, reactionary narrative that has become the norm of online interaction.
I implore all adults (particularly parents) to reevaluate their online behavior. Think about whether your commentary adds to the betterment of society or its demise. Then, consider whether you would want your children to follow your lead.
Remember: it’s perfectly ok to have feelings and opinions, but that doesn’t make them RIGHT or JUSTIFIED and it’s crucial our children understand that difference because it will determine how they handle adversity and conflict in the future.