Scott McGinnis | Goombay Tally
Are Today’s Kids Getting Shortchanged Because of Social Media?
As one of the world’s youngest and most successful computer programmers and social-networking geniuses, Facebook co-founder Mr. Zuckerberg recently acquired “WhatsApp,” a social-networking messaging company with upwards of 450 million users for a cool $19 billion.
My questions this week is: Has the popularity of social media diminished motherhood at all? Is Mark Zuckerberg partially responsible? In other words, are modern day mothers less responsible, less attentive to their kid’s needs, and more self-centered than mothers of past generations because of smartphones, Facebook, Twitter etc? Are modern day mothers more worried about updating their Facebook status than giving little “Johnny” quality Mom time at home?
I posed this question to one of my opinionated, male co-workers last week and he gave me his take on modern day mothers. He also prefaced his statements by saying there are always exceptions to the rule, but that he thought that his opinion reflected a growing trend.
His assessment went something like this: He compared “1970 Mom” with today’s modern “Facebook Mom.” For example, he said that a 1970 Mom would take the kids to the local neighborhood park and immediately converse with other mothers about the town gossip and all the while, keep a keen eagle eye on their kids and play with them on the slides, in the sand pit, or on the swings. She was an engaged parent.
By the time 1970 Mom left the park with kids, she will have actually 1) communicated with living, breathing human beings, 2) accomplished a little cardiovascular exercise and strength training by running around with the kiddos; picking them up off the ground when they fall off the monkey bars, or pushing them on the swing, and 3) give an impromptu science lesson to the kids by explaining the life cycle of a butterfly and the process of metamorphosis while pointing out a small caterpillar on the ground. 1970 Mom did it all.
When playtime is over, 1970 Mom has completed an hour of socialization, but at the same time assumed multiple roles in the process: police officer, criminal investigator, (yes, figuring out if Sally hit John first, or vice-versa, is considered serious investigative work) nurse, weather analyzer, snack and beverage vendor, and traumatic event counselor and psychotherapist (“Johnny told me to shut up and pushed me on the ground,” says the 4 year old).
And by the way, 1970 Mom does all this without pulling out one camera, smartphone, iPad, iPod, Kindle Fire XP, or any of the “gazillion” electronic devices to record or capture the events that occurred at the neighborhood park.
Yes…O.K., that’s because those devices didn’t actually exist back then, and arguably if they did, 1970 Mom may have quickly become Facebook Momma in very short order; but that’s beside the point and wasn’t really part of his agenda-infused narrative.
He said his point was: for 1970 Mom, the act of taking the kids to the park and enjoying nature and clean, fresh air, stood on its own merits as an event to be enjoyed real-time, and in the real world. Free from social pressure to share that moment with the world.
Just like a warm and inviting Norman Rockwell painting, these moments were genuine, real, and developed a rich tapestry of memories for the kids that will only be relived through cognitive images and conversation.
There was no compelling desire to share pictures of Sally hanging upside down on the monkey bars to 200 of her closest friends; with the caption, “My cute little monkey on the monkey bars LOL!!!”
Conversely, Facebook Momma will also take little Sally and Johnny to the neighborhood park today, but her experience will be starkly different than 1970 Moms’. Facebook Momma may engage with the other parents at the park initially—or not, but the more likely scenario will find Facebook Mom crouched over her iPhone, or Samsung Galaxy 4, updating her Facebook or Twitter status. Maybe she will be responding to a comment her girlfriend made about her goofy husband who locked himself out of his car and was 20 minutes late for work. She is probably commenting on the sixth cat video posted on that day.
He said that Facebook Momma’s level of engagement with the kids at the park is noticeably dissimilar than 1970 Mom’s experience. Facebook Momma again interacts with her kids primarily by snapping pictures of little Sally hanging upside down on the monkey bars, uploading the picture to Facebook, and then spending the remainder of that “precious” time at the park responding to and “liking” the comments on the picture from 200 of her closest friends. “And there you have it,” he said. “There’s the difference.” he continued.
Those beautiful moments with the kids has now been regulated to a picture in cyberspace, 13 “likes” from family and friends, and one comment from another Facebook Momma standing 12 feet away from her at the same park that says, “Such a cutie pie, love that pic…LOL!!!”
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said, “social-networking sites like Facebook have made the world a smaller, more globally connected place, and has allowed people like himself to find friends that he hasn’t seen since homeroom in high school.”
However, you have to admit that these sites and the supportive technology and infrastructure that drives them has also reduced human interaction and communicative authenticity to near grunts (for those with teenagers), head nods, rabid texting, and incoherent, one-word responses.
You may disagree with my conspiratorial co-worker that the brilliant genius, Mark Zuckerberg is destroying the institution that we know as “Motherhood,” and that there are too many other contributing societal, cultural, technological, and family dynamics that impact modern Mom’s persona and parenting capabilities over time.
I personally believe my friend is exaggerating (and slightly bitter toward his own Mom) and was probably just using the opportunity to vent over his wife’s social-media habits. I also think he makes a few good points: social-media has enhanced our lives exponentially, but has also driven us to communicate in the secluded corners and locked bedrooms in life, instead of engaging real-time, in real places, with real people.
Are the kiddos missing out on one-on-one time with Momma? One could argue that Johnny is so wrapped up in his own iPad or iPhone that Mom and Dad brought him, that he’s too busy to really care.
You may be off the hook Mr. Zuckerberg.