I have been trying to have social media type conversations with my daughters. I’ve already broached the subject several times over the years and, with daughter one, usually been met by a yawn and a comment along the lines of “they tell us about this ALL the time at school, mum”. However, I have persevered in the face of total disinterest.
First, daughter one. She in fact led the conversation as she seems to know a lot more about it than me. She delivered a half-hour talk on why her generation is doomed because they live life behind a screen and how she is determined to “get out there” and grab life by the short and curlies. I am not entirely sure this is something to applaud or be terrified by. She has applied to do the Duke of Edinburgh awards and her chosen skill is Japanese. She intends, apparently, to live there in the near future – or until she discovers the cost of the plane ticket. I have been busy shepherding her towards developing skills in meerkat care, given that the local organic farm has taken on meerkats and a whole safari of other animals, including rather worrying emus.
Anyway, back to the social media talk. Daughter one informed me that the world needs to prepare for a generation of children who will have no more than a 20-second attention span and will therefore not be able to understand any complex issues. She took Facebook to pieces and all other social media for their superficiality and the fact that they are used to portray an idea that everyone is happy and “successful”, making all those who do not feel happy and successful – oh, and most particularly beautiful – believe themselves to be absolute losers.
I ended up in the invidious position of trying to stand up for social media, if only because I met my stepbrother on it after 20 years and because young feminists have been able to link up on it. It seemed like very small beer in the face of an overwhelming wall of pressure to be and behave in a certain way. Daughter three was listening in. Her age group is apparently under a three-line whip to have a boyfriend- at the age of nine. It’s hard to hold out against it if you want to be accepted. I totally understand that, but I told daughter three it’s the people who fit in who have all the problems later on in life when they discover that they kind of lost themselves in the process. I felt like singing some sort of resistance song.
Instead, I moved on to daughter two who is an altogether different kettle of fish. She now has a phone, which is meant to be used to contact her mum if she is going to be home late, etc, or for her mum to contact her in emergencies or if daughter one refuses to pick up. Daughter two has been using her phone to view gymastics and make-up tutorials. I am slightly suspicious about this. I asked what she was looking at and was ready to launch my talk on social media, bullying, safety, etc. I started by asking if there was anything that was worrying her. I meant in terms of what she was viewing. “Well,” she began, “I’m not so worried about earthquakes because I don’t think they would be strong here, but I AM worried about sharks and tidal waves and hurricanes and tornadoes.” There are many, many forms of transport she has crossed off her list after viewing films like Poseidon Adventure and Airplane. Wizard of Oz is her favourite all-time film, but I’m rather concerned that the cyclone at the start has played on her mind more than it ought to. We ended up with a long talk about why tidal waves are not coming to our village any time soon. I have reserved the social media talk for later in the week.