Is Social Media Interrupting Your Life?

Posted by Tony on January 8, 2014

“Please, whatever happens, don’t let me become my mother!” 

I’ve heard this so many times from women I’ve grown up and older with. It’s especially notable when I hear the phrase not from a mother, but from a young daughter’s mouth. Is it irony? Inevitable history come to haunt our future? Or just an echo of lessons learned? Regardless, it seems to be constant throughout generations.

For most of us, as we age, we quickly realize the intelligence of our parents. You know, the sound-but-ignored advice we have all paid the price for. I have heard the words of my parents flying through my home in the present day: “I don’t care who started it, I just want quiet!” or “You might think I’m doing this to be mean, but I’m doing this because I love you.”

Then, there’s the next step in evolution—when you hear your own words coming out of your children’s mouths. “You just don’t understand” or  “All my friends _ _ _ , why can’t I?!” and “I hate you!” I distinctly remember yelling that last one through a slammed door many years ago in my childhood home. I did it to grab attention and inflict pain. I now fully realize how effective it was.

“Kids these days.”

As a teenager, I swore up and down that I would never “grow old.” I now know how foolish that was. Us oldish folks know better. We clearly see issues that our children ignore. But, each aging generation seems to think that the world is coming to an end with “kids these days.” In my youth, the end was near with too much TV, AIDS and disco. Madonna WAS the seventh sign. Now, it’s social media, twerking, and smart phones. The world will end with the dissolution of social order in favor of Instagrammed selfies.

I remember so well the social events of my youth. Getting together with people was core to staying sane, and life would seem like an Edgar Allen Poe poem until the next group event. Now, I see my kids with their own groups, and it is discouraging to watch them texting and posting and Vining. I want to yell, “You Are With Your Friends NOW!”

There seems to be such truth in the destruction of our social lives at the expense of constantly sharing with the people not with us. What about the people who are with us? Aren’t we missing something here? Something that has carried humans forward for thousands of years?

The destruction of our social lives?

This techno-distraction has spread among the wiser, oldish folks, too. We watch our kids at their dance recitals or band concerts through the screens of our phones. Our babies’ first steps are broadcasted immediately on Facebook. I have seen the ocean at sunset, with my wife by my side—and posted the moment on social media. Why the hell do I know or care that you can get LTE signal on such a remote beach?

It’s so easy to see how our some think our world is going to hell.

Not long ago, while preparing for the family trip to my parent’s home in Brevard for Thanksgiving, I saw a tweet from Bill, my best friend from high school. He and his kids were going to be in Brevard at the same time. We also discovered that one of our favorite beers is now brewed there, so we met at the brewery and had a fantastic afternoon. I posted a photo of my beer, as I often do… but it had absolutely no impact on the experience. It was a sunny day in the mountains with a great beer, reliving some old times with a friend.

My 15-year-old daughter and I recently returned from a local production of Cinderella, and I was so caught up in the melancholy of time flying by. The last time my daughter saw this show, she was an adorable 7-year-old, much like all the little princesses in the audience that day. I posted a quick picture of that… but the moment never felt interrupted.

Last New Year’s Eve, in the cold celebration, I shared photos of the fireworks with all my digital friends, but when the clock struck midnight, I was holding my wife of 21 years, and kissed her again, like I have for every New Year’s that I can now remember.

I watched my kids head out the door many times this summer to play kick the can. Kids these days are figuring out how to balance it all. Maybe we all are, some just more slowly than others.

Learning to adapt and balance

These new digital devices and quick moments of sharing are a bridge between the vast amounts of time spent apart from so many people. We laugh and share and keep up with the mundane. We stay in touch. I see my kids, not in some losing battle to keep society functioning, but in a very comfortable adaptation to our current world. They easily navigate the various norms for their interactions, rules for when they can use their phones, and how to manage digital relationships while also living in the moment. My friends and I are the ones fighting to balance it all. We complain, we preach about the end of the world… but in the end, we also adapt and balance.

It’s a new rule with my mother-in-law: If we are eating out, the first one to bring out a cellphone pays for dinner. She demands focused family time, and it’s a needed rest from the constant buzz. My daughter has been critical to me giving up digital distractions while driving. The older generation maintains a hold on the importance of the here-and-now, and the newer generation helps guide us along the new trends. And here I am, the current generation Dad, lost and distracted by new technology, and fearful of what is being compromised in the process. What I have come to realize is that the generation before and after my own seem so well at ease with this process. It’s my generation that is crying foul. Why are we so torn up with the demise of our world when our parents seem so quietly at ease with it?

I’m guessing now that every generation caught up in middle age sees the impending demise of the world as we know it. We think we have it all so neatly put together. It’s something I know my parents felt, and it’s part of every generation. Then slowly, a new realization appears: We have had our time, our control… and now it’s time for us to pass it on to the kids we’re more than just a little suspect of.  However, just like the fear that stays true through each generation, adaptation and success follows right along. I think my generation turned out pretty well, and our “issues” became our normal world, not our downfall. We adapt and we grow, and I’m sure some things will remain constant. But please, whatever happens, “don’t let me become my grandmother’s daughter!”