Sure, there are women throughout history who have struggled with confidence and have looked to others for validation. A lot of that is simple human nature. But I think there’s a new breed of thinking these days, and I believe much of it centers around the perceptions that social media creates…and how it makes us feel. How has social media and different perceptions of how “perfect” life is for others affected this new generation of young women out there serving missions? How has it affected my daughters? How has it affected me as a mother for that matter? Of course it’s not just the youth who are affected. Seeing so many things that are posed and flawless can sure do a number to make “regular” lives seem mundane and gray.
why technology is ruining our kids — part 2
Ok, this is not really a “why” but more of a “how” do we stop this “ruining” going on.
You know how when you worry about something, or you’re focused on something specific, everything around you starts to relate to what you’re concentrating on? Like if you’re trying to pick out a paint color it seems that suddenly every hue of every wall you see is suddenly very interesting. If your teenager is looking for a job it seems that you’re suddenly keenly aware of “we’re hiring” possibilities everywhere you go. If you’ve just read an interesting book it seems that it’s brought up all around you…on a podcast, by a friend, etc.
Maybe that doesn’t happen to anyone else, but it sure does to me.
And these days, as I mentioned back HERE, I think a lot about technology and what it’s doing to my kids.
What it’s doing to me.
So everything seems to relate back to that for some reason. I tend to blame a lot of things on technology lately, much to my daughters’ chagrin! I know, I know, there are lots of positive things that come from technology. It’s glorious and wonderful in so many ways…it has so much power to change lives for the better. But I do believe that there’s a part of it ruining our kids. It’s mesmerizing a whole generation (and their parents). I mentioned some interesting articles back HERE that talk about how the tech industry will do whatever it takes to keep it that way.
So let’s rewind to last month when we were out to lunch with Max’s mission president and his wife. In the midst of our discussion we talked about how missions have changed since they’ve lowered the age requirement to serve. Dave and I wondered about the maturity level, whether homesickness has gone up, etc. But do you know what they mentioned is the toughest for these newer missionaries coming out? Self-esteem. And that they were more worried about the sisters than the elders.
And since I’m in that “automatically blame things on technology” mode, it made me mad at social media. I mean, that’s got to be at least part of the culprit, right? That and parent coddling. Which I know I’m guilty of sometimes. But that’s a post for another day.
In the middle of that conversation there in Taiwan, suddenly my mind was swirling around my own girls. Dave and I are raising four of them after all. We want them to be confident and strong and to “look up rather than looking from side to side” for their self-esteem. In our discussion we all felt like this lower self-esteem is something new to this generation.
Comparison is the thief of joy. And these girls we’re raising are right snack-dab in the middle of it all.
So a couple days later after our discussion (which, in reality, really didn’t have anything to do with technology, it was all about missionary work and Taiwan, but still led my mind there), I was wringing my hands to Dave about all that mumbo-jumbo of social media and trying to discuss what we were going to do about it. And you know what he reminded me of (being the wise man he is)? He reminded me I sound like a broken record. Worrying isn’t going to get me (or us) anywhere. We need to take some action. And of course he was right.
Sure, we’ve had a bazillion discussions about phones, we have a family contract, they don’t ever leave the kitchen, we put them away at dinner, blah blah blah. But we needed to step it up a notch.
So we decided to take a week break from Instagram. I know there are several different social media venues out there, but we chose that one (maybe because I don’t do Facebook or Snapchat and I wanted us to do this all together) and used it as a little experiment.
We evaluated how we felt about that at the end of the week and guess what? We were all happier. We were all grateful for that week off. I was so much more concentrated on the things that matter most and it felt so good. My girls felt the same. Which is weird because I didn’t feel like scrolling through those images really took up much time. And they actually didn’t. I’m really careful how many people I follow and it’s not a lot. But the thing that made a difference was the focus. When I had a second between carpools or in line at the grocery store I looked around and used my brain instead getting glued to a screen. When I was at home any spare seconds were spent really with my girls and Dave, or thinking of them and what they needed. I was less distracted.
Yes, I was happier.
Gradually Instagram has eased it’s way back into life for them, but for me I’ve decided to take it off my phone for now and just check it out once a week or so. I’m trying to find the balance because I do love to know what’s going on out there with the people I love that I don’t get so see as much as I want. Because social media is such a way of life these days, finding the balance is tricky. But there’s something about working actively to find that balance rather than just wringing my hands in worry that feels good.
We’ve also been using “our pact” (an iPhone app) like it’s our best friend. I can turn off the girls’ apps from my phone whenever I want, and we’ve decided for now to keep them turned off until all jobs, practicing, etc. are done for the day. So far, so good. Why in Heaven’s name should they be distracted by their phones before all the “real” things for the day are done?
Simultaneously with this little experiment I was talking to my friend on the phone about some of the depression and anxiety that surrounds us these days, hindering many of the people we love. We talked about the connection to social media and my friend had a great idea: let’s gather some friends who we have discussed this with before and have a little “book club” about a book she had heard was really good. We each invited some friends to read and discuss, and we’re going to meet in a couple weeks to try to figure out some solid solutions.
The book is called The Tech-Wise Family and you can find it HERE.
Want to join us in reading? You’re welcome to! And we can have our own little “book club” here. You know I’ll be coming here to report our findings, I’d love to hear other’s thoughts as well.
Not all of us will have the same answers. Every family is different. Every person is different. And really, because of that there’s no “right answer.” But so far I’m loving this book that is making me really think through some concrete ideas to help us balance out our use of technology. Making me think about what really is it’s proper place in my life? What is it’s proper place in the lives of my girls who are so impressionable and in such a crucial stage of growing up. Do I really want them to have a phone in their hand all the time, often making them feel inferior or left out…or trying to figure out ways to make themselves look “cooler” and get more “likes,” (oh it happens whether we want to believe it or not), or do I want them to look up and see the world around around them, have more chances to look into the eyes of those they love. They’re mostly likely not going to see the big picture from the midst of all that’s swirling around them unless we help them to shut the things that don’t matter off, and give more room for those things that do.
So much to think about, but there are my thoughts for today 🙂 Join us to read that book, or just keep the awesome comments and suggestions coming like the ones that came after the last post back HERE. Lots of thinking material back there, thank you for that!