It’s not because you got on Facebook. It’s because of why. (A letter to parents.)
This funny piece on HuffPost Comedy says:
“Once the most popular social network for college students and teens, Facebook has become more like a public forum for moms, dads and grandparents to embarrass their family members. If you’re wondering why “the kids” prefer Instagram, Tumblr and SnapChat over Facebook, it might be because of status updates like these.”
And this post gives you a nice little intro to some of these alternative platforms—which is probably a waste of your time to read, since by the time you’ve gotten onto one of those, it won’t be cool any more.
This has got to be very frustrating. After all the flak you took for resisting The Facebook, and for using it “wrong” once you tried it, you finally caught up with the kids and…they left the party already.
I’ve got a suggestion for you, and it has nothing to do with social media: stop trying to play in the sandbox, and drive a real dump truck.
If you’re trying to keep up with the teenagers, don’t bother—they’re spread out in a zillion directions, they are downloading new apps every day, and new companies are starting seemingly by the hour to launch new social networks. Catching up will never happen, and it’s not the problem anyway.
So what do I mean by that suggestion above?
Remember when you had those great adult friends and you got together and had great times and your kids grew up playing together? If so, you’re probably over 60 (or a homeschooler). Today’s kids grew up playing with the friends they made at day care, school, sports, etc.—and their lonely parents, with no lives to speak of outside of their role in paying for and driving around their kids, bonded with their kids’ friends’ parents. (This is not normal, by the way—just ask the French.)
I’m nearly 30 and I see this all the time with people my age who have their first kid or two—now that they’re out of college, they have no idea how to make friends or “get involved,” nor does the prevailing culture offer them much in that arena outside of the bar scene, and they are SO relieved when their first baby hits one or two years old and they can meet other parents at day care or the park. They talk about their kids because, really, that’s all they’re really equipped to talk about any more.
Not entirely their fault, of course. And I sure as heck don’t mean to downplay how difficult parenting is. But in 15 years, or maybe 10, those parents will look to their kids like Amy Poehler in Mean Girls:
That’s right; my young friends too will be the lame, boring parents on a pathetic quest to be accepted by their children, on the children’s terms.
If you read that sentence and thought “Huh, that’s backwards,” you’re right. It used to be that adults had relationships, and interests, and roles that had nothing to do with their children. And as long as those things didn’t come at the expense of their kids’ well-being, it made them better parents—because they were showing their kids how to be adults. They were showing their kids how to be interesting people. They were providing role models so their kids had an image of something they wanted to be like when they grew up.
Instead of asking their five year-old for permission to play with the toy dump truck in the sandbox with him, Daddy drove a real dump truck and said, “Son, when you’re big enough, I’ll let you drive it too.”
If you have kids older than 10, and you’re not doing this already, it’s probably too late to give them a lifestyle where growing up to be like you is an attractive proposition. You probably haven’t raised them to know how to engage intergenerationally, which is partly why Facebook scares them off now. But you could work on crafting an image that could pay off in the long run.
And it might start by using whatever technological tools you need, to connect with the people and communities that interest you, rather than using them to play in the sandbox. Then you could do what a parent is supposed to do: engage a kid from an adult’s perspective.
Brian Brown loves building the environments, habits, and networks that make people thrive. He is the founder of Humane Pursuits, where he writes a featured column and edits the Give channel. He started his consulting company, Narrator, to help great mission-driven organizations modernize and grow. He lives with his wife Christina and son Edmund in Colorado Springs, where they mix cocktails, hunt for historic architecture, and see how many people they can squeeze into their house for happy hour.