Today we hear a lot about social media etiquette. We all know by now it’s incredibly dangerous to text while driving and of of course checking your Facebook news feed is just as dangerous. At the beginning of movies we are reminded to turn off our phones, and most of us have heard a horror story about dinner dates gone wrong, with one party spending the meal checking for updates. As social media becomes more and more integrated into real life, the etiquette and rules will continue to evolve. But what about the boundaries and rules for social media within our own homes? Some parents have strict rules in place for their children when it comes to these things. What about for the adults? It’s just as important to be respectful of those we care about as it is to respect strangers! When does taking advantage of all that social media has to offer by being in touch and aware, cross over into being rude and disrespectful of our own families and loved ones?
It’s worth considering the way social media has changed society and the way we interact, and then reflect on how our own home lives can be impacted. Let’s look at the reality of a few typical days today, compared to a few decades ago:
THEN – The family gathered around the dining room table and discussed their days. Most folks – including telemarketers because they didn’t even exist! – politely refrained from calling on the one house telephone during typical meal times, out of respect for the family dining together. Dinner was a time to talk about everything from catching up on how each others” days had gone to making future plans and discussing concerns or issues. Had Johnny passed the test he had worried about? Oh! Julie was invited to a dance!
TODAY – So many families today struggle to even eat their meals together! Many times meals are not even cooked on the stove, but rather are heated in the microwave and eaten at the kitchen island. Or, with a plate propped on a lap in front of the television. It’s not at all rare for a person to have their tablet device next to them, checking new pins or posts, even if they do happen to be seated next to a family member.
THEN – After dinner, the family might gather together in the family room to either watch a show together, and even discuss it together, or to play cards or board games. Sometimes the family would go on a ride in the car together just for fun, and talk about what they saw.
TODAY – The television is on, one family member is operating the remote control, another has their laptop opened and is posting photos to Facebook, and another is texting to their friend about the latest YouTube video. The interaction of the actual family is nil.
This brief illustration shows clearly how many of us are losing that real connection forged by conversation. How else will you know what sort of adult your teen is turning into, if you are not engaged in conversations as well as fun activities with them, as a family? And, unfortunately, sometimes the adults are more guilty than the children. The kids know they are not allowed on social media yet, but their parents spend countless hours interacting on social platforms rather than with each other. It’s a recipe for disaster, as far as relationships go!
Let’s all take a look at our own family structures and agree to some guidelines and limits. Be present! Enjoy each phase of your children and converse with them. Remember to look into your partner’s eyes and listen to them. Use social media as a wonderful tool, but keep those much more important lines of communication open and active.