It never ceases to amaze me when people write a mass email or post on FB things that are happening to them privately. I see social media like a virtual cocktail party - you know where you walk in, high heels and pretty dress, smile for the camera and share interesting but not deeply personal tidbits. It is a good way for all of us to connect and to be partaking in a cause or the accomplishments of our friends and acquaintances. It is not a sleepover with you and your couple of best friend, pints of Hagen Dazs/drinks and tissues at the ready as you spill because those people actually care and want to help. The cocktail party crew they want to enjoy the time out and raising their glass along with you for a hearty "cheers".
When that moves to personal, from kids to adults, complaints of everything from your best friend to your spouse to your child who may be struggling with a serious life issue well then I find it does two things 1) it makes those of us who are in cocktail party mode feel like we just walked into the bathroom and caught our neighbor in a flexible yet compromising position with someone other than the spouse she came with - we will look, gasp and this leads to 2) we feel empowered to have an opinion whether we saw you 10 min ago or back at the last 25 year high school reunion. Worse yet it allows for bullying - I get it more than ever how bad this must be for kids.
When I went to school at worst your name made a bathroom wall or you got shoulder bumped in a hallway - there were always people who were mean and who defined themselves at the expense of others. Girls in particular are vicious - I cannot say I was ever bullied but I did have an unpleasant experience or two in my time. I was lucky I was always friendly enough and social enough to have a buffer to shield me and move me along. Not so lucky were girls who had to endure months or years of this - I saw it and sometimes I said something and others I shamefully will say I just did not have the time to give them. Yet when we went home at worst you got a nasty hang up or call but it was not cyberspace - that follows you - that allows kids to jump on the bullying bandwagon - that provides a place where you can just be as vicious as you want and others may actually click on Like for your nastiness.
This happens with adults - people reply to all on emails where someone should probably have not sent it to all to begin with - people want to be part of the action and somehow we see too often people love to publicly shame people. Not for big infractions but to sit smugly back and say well that's not me.
As one of my kids is entering what is now a mine zone called Middle school I as a parent of this century need to know how to protect them and give them a safe space to speak when it starts and more importantly how to not be part of it themselves. I went to an orientation and the principal was spot on with this "it starts with a friend group often that changes dynamic". Happened to me when I chose not to go along with some behaviors I at 15 knew were pushing the envelope and did my close friends turn nasty on me ?? Yep but I had other friends and it broke my heart and I got over it and so did our friendship. Now imagine that coming through your FaceBook Instagram Snapchat Vine Kik accounts and imagine it not going away and imagine that others who had nothing to do with it took the side of what was the Alpha because you know it's much easier than taking the side of right.
How much of that can we model for our kids to show that this is not how we behave and how much do we tell our kids how to handle this ?? A lot is the answer in my mind. I too have to watch how I treat these things - how I continue to be at the virtual cocktail party vs my diary on social media and most of to show them that it is just as cool and powerful to be kind - actually more so. It is a minefield but you can help them be protected and ask for back up when needed. More so you can teach them to not empower this behavior - be the power of positive. So enjoy the media - in a social way - not as a diary.