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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Facebook and Your Fantasy Family: What's Real Online?


If you’re a parent (and I’m assuming that you probably are if you’re taking the time to read this) then you’ve undoubtedly spent at least a moment or two thinking about what social media means for your child. You’ve probably taught your child about the perils of posting and how the anonymity of the Internet means that anyone can lie about who they are. I mean, look at the MTV show “Catfish”. It’s a whole series built on the concept that so many people lie on Facebook that a super-nice, well-meaning guy (and his trusty sidekick) have to travel around the country helping people to sort their online love affairs out. And what does “Catfish” teach us? Everyone (or at least, most people) lies on the Internet.

So, what about parents? Do they lie on the Internet? I’m not talking about some stay-at-home dad catfishing a pretty 22-year-old across the county; telling her that he’s really a 25-year-old aspiring rap star when he’s really on diaper duty all day long and has a beer gut the size of Santa’s belly. I mean—are parents glossing over the truth when it comes to how they present their children to their friends and family online?

How many pictures do you take? I take a ridiculous amount. Of the 300 or so photos that I snap during a day out at the zoo, a museum trip or a family birthday celebration, maybe one or two look “ok”. For example, during the two-hour dinner to celebrate my grandmother’s 91st birthday my 12-year-old son spent roughly an hour and a half playing games on his phone, 10 minutes eating, 18 minutes rolling his eyes and grunting answers such as “I don’t know” and “I guess school’s ok”. During the remaining two minutes he put a (somewhat forced) smile on his face and sat for a few photos with his great-grandmother. Did I post the pictures of him with his head buried in his iPhone? No way. I did post the pics of him gleefully grinning next to great-grandma. For all anyone knew, he spent the whole day sweetly smiling and having pleasant conversations with the birthday girl.

What I’m getting at is the idea of only putting out there what we want other people to believe. No one wants their FB friends to think that their 4-yar-old is a tantrum-prone tyrant that spends half the day painting the kitchen floor with pudding and the other half screaming at mommy. Instead, they want their family and friends (especially those that live in another state or the ones that they haven’t seen since Madonna was like a virgin and Molly Ringwald was pretty in pink) to think that they have a perfectly pretty, sweet little angel. Instead of posting their reality, they collage together a fantasy family who eats freshly picked organic veggies at the local farm while wearing 100 percent stain-free perfectly matched clothing and smiling ear-to-ear with freshly brushed teeth.

I wonder what Facebook would look like if every parent took a week to only post their true daily lives. On Monday maybe there’s a picture of little Johnny heading off to preschool wearing his Spiderman PJ’s (with mom straggling behind wearing her applesauce-stained yoga pants and the same sweatshirt that she’s had on since Saturday). Later in the week you might see the turbulent tween Tina caught in an action shot—slamming her door on dad’s nose. On Friday night you’d possibly see a mad dad grounding teenage Tommy when he sneaks in at 1 a.m. (even though his curfew is 11). Let's not forget about those squeaky clean kitchen shots that we see online. After all, don't you scrub the tile with a toothbrush daily? This isn’t to say that we don’t all have our own truly honest fine family moments. But, do we really believe that our sister’s new baby is the giggling joy that she presents her as on Facebook 24-7?

My challenge to you is to take a day, a week or more and post your real-life pics. Instead of editing your life, show of your reality. Maybe it is as picture-perfect as it looks online, or maybe there are really piles of laundry, screaming tots and sulky teens.
I'll start it out right here: A holiday picture that isn't exactly Facebook ready (yes, this one never made it online). We had just woken up, no makeup, stained sweats and if you look off to the back you'll see the mess in the family room.
 

8 comments:

  1. I do pick and choose which pictures I want to put up. I don't want a mess in my background, even though my house is not really dorty its just lived in. I still just tend to edit the mess outor not posti it at all. I do post reality pictures sometimes, if they're funny enough.

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  2. I'm also cautious about what I post online. I find of late I'm posting fewer and fewer pics - and trying instead to take the time to enjoy the moment instead of capture it for posterity. But you do make a good point - we're rarely the "picture perfect" photos we put online - and I'll consider that the next time I think about posting! Thanks!

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    1. I agree. I feel like as my son has gotten older I've stopped taking as many pictures. I often feel like I'm missing the moment when I'm behind the lens.

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    2. I didn't realize how much I'm behind the camera until our recent trip,to the zoo, there's one pic of me and the kids - after ice cream, at the gate, as we're leaving!

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  3. I do pick and choose. My kids don't need their whole lives broadcast, but recently I started a Mommy Reality challenge with a great group of bloggers. We have asked Moms to post some of their real pictures. I have so enjoyed this and seeing their real meals or rides has strengthened me somehow to know their are others struggling just like me every day. You issue a great challenge as well.

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    1. That sounds like a great challenge. Whenever I see the photos that go along with recipes on blogs I feel like I could never do that - it all looks so pretty.

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  4. I think this is one of the big problems for today's kids. They spend so much time on social media - with everyone only putting the perfect out there. Too many kids think everyone else has a perfect life all the time! Kind of like watching commercials at Christmas and feeling bad that your holiday doesn't look like that. Don't know what the answer is though!

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  5. I think we all only show the photos we want the world to see, but I am not sure the world is ready for my reality, besides, I don't think I can fit my whole ironing pile into just one shot! Thanks for linking up to this weeks #parentingpinitparty

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