Parents and Social Media: Are You Posting Things You Shouldn’t?
Social media can be a wonderful to share the joys of parenting and of our families’ milestones. It’s hard to even remember what times were like before we had Facebook and Instagram. We can literally share instantaneously with all of our friends and family whatever is going on or whatever we think is special or important. How did we used to do this? Multiple phone calls and sharing of photo albums? This just seems so much better and more efficient, right?
In many ways, social media is better and wonderful and efficient and fun. But, like most good things, there is also a down side. Most of know this, and we preach to our children and teens about it. We tell them to be mindful of what they post, who they follow, keep personal information private, don’t offend or bully others. But do we do the same? How mindful are you of what you are posting and how it might affect others?
Take, for example, posting photos from your child’s birthday party. Was the whole class invited? What about other friends that might have expected and invitation? Might they be hurt or offended if they see that they weren’t invited? Is it okay to post the pictures anyway? There isn’t really one right answer here, but it seems to be a good idea to stop and think things through at least as much as we would expect our teens to do so.
My teens have seen many times on Instagram pictures of their friends hanging out together or out somewhere together. Once they see the pictures, they realize their friends made plans and didn’t include them. Depending on who the friends are, how tight of group it really is, and how often this happens, they might start to feel hurt and left out. Even though they are aware that not everyone is included in every plan, if it seems that all your friends are frequently getting together and not including you, that can be hard to swallow.
Recently, an adult couple that I work with in my private practice told of a similar story. They typically hang out with a group of about four other couples. One of those couples doesn’t care much for another couple, but tends to tolerate them most of the time. But when one of them had a birthday celebration, they chose not to include the couple that they don’t care for. They planned the event and only included those whom they really wanted to be there. But the couples who did attend posted pictures on social media, so the excluded couple found out. As you might expect, they were hurt and offended, felt left out and confused. They had no idea that the couple hosting didn’t care much for them.
These situations also put others in a predicament. Even if you personally choose not to post about your party, your child’s birthday party, Bar Mitzvah or Quinceanera, others might. Haven’t you ever posted when you are at a party or event? I know I have. I am usually just having a good time and enjoying myself, taking pictures of the good time I’m having. I rarely stop to think who might see it and how it might offend them. And should I really have to worry about that? Are the rules different for kids and adults? I really don’t know. This is new terrain, and the etiquette is still being created.
Here is what I do know.
- As a general rule of thumb, we ought to be mindful of others and their feelings, both in person and online.
- We don’t need to obsessively post every aspect of our lives on social media.
- We can learn to stop and ask if posting this might be hurtful to someone we care about.
- There will be times that I choose to post something even though I know someone who wasn’t invited might see it.
- Sometimes, people will have to learn to accept that they won’t always be included in everything.
- It’s more appropriate to share a few pictures than 100 from a party or a trip or anything, really.
- Compassion for others is what makes you a good person.
- Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes before you post something is a good test as to whether you should do it or not.
- If you’d get upset at your teenager for doing something, don’t do it yourself.
- If your parents or principal or boss would be upset, don’t do it.
- If there is any doubt it your mind that it’s a good idea, don’t do it.
While some of these seem obvious, it is often these most basic concepts of common sense and sensitivity to others that escape our minds in the moment. All of your decisions should be guided by your character, not by impulse. You don’t have to document every waking moment online, and you can be mindful even when posting about special moments. Just like drinking alcohol needs to be done responsibly, so, too, does social media need to be used responsibly.