Think about the old days when your mom would secretly take your cell phone to go over your contact list and check your text messages. For some of us, out teenage years are a constant hide-and-seek game with our parents to protect our secrets of being read by parents from letters, emails and cell phones. Now with social media like facebook and twitter, the technological affordances of such platforms provide parents with more alternatives to monitor the life of their kids. By simply signing up for an account, moms can comfortably reads kid’s post on twitter to follow his/her movement, thoughts, and relationship status. Once one accept the friend request of their parents on facebook (which we usually can’t say no to), we automatically opens a door where the majority of our social network and interactions are widely open to parents.
The thing that concerns me the most whenever I am going to post something on my social media platforms are the potential response of my mom. Having a relatively social media-savvy mom who quickly adapts herself to the newly populated social communication tools is something to be proud of. However, an over-protective mom who carefully analyzes every single post of yours and follows up with warnings and comments in your next chat (luckily not on public commenting function) really creeps me out. Mom, it is already terrifying enough that you read every one of my my social media posts and count every steps of my social network interaction, but constantly telling me about your thoughts on my posts is even more intrusive.
The routines I can expect include: every time I post status after 12, a text message alert will ring with a warm warning of “Why haven’t you gone to bed yet? Your health is going to collapse by staying up late so often!” Every new profile picture I post would lead to a comment or even an direct instruction like” your face looks so big on this profile picture! Take it down and change a new one, the left side of your face looks prettier!” Often times, my parents would even read my friends’ twitter posts to get a more complete sense of who are around me and what their personalities are like.
As Michael Wesch has mentioned in his speech “An anthropological introduction to YouTube”, social collapse happens when the audience on social media is unknown to the producer of contents, same as the usage and interpretation of the content. By posting about our lives and thoughts on social media, we are opening ourselves up to a virtually open space where those seeing your posts are actually invited to peak into your personal life. Also, if they are interested, people are able to analyze your personality in a more compete way, at least the side of personality you chose to present to others on social media. As we might mostly imagine our audience to be our friends or those alike us, it is very likely that somehow unwanted audience like parents are sneaking around and mapping out your social interactivity, as an important supplement of the parenting tools
The parenting responsibility and the desire of having control over kids’ life sometimes manifest themselves in the invasion of kids’ privacy. As Nancy Baym has discussed in her book Personal Connection in the Digital Age, “New media offer us ‘volume control’ to regulate our social environment and message,” media like cell phones have already diminish our interaction with parents in real life where we’d rather be physically present with the family while being virtually absent. Interestingly, now social media in turn opens up a new realm where the boundary of persona/private and the public are redefined again. Those secrets we used to hide from parents in the text messages are now open on those platforms where they can “legally” view. Parents are even invited to track the used-to-be hidden social network of you in real life.
While kids like me are really annoyed by such behaviors of parents, I found an article on Huffpost talking about MCC professor Danah Boyd and her survey on parents’ fear of kids on social media. There we see, same as children, parents are afraid that kids will read their posts and find out they are not flawless either. The major concern compiled through the survey are that parents are afraid that unfavorable remarks and pictures kids post will leave permanent mark that go gains them in the future. Again, the potential ill-intended usage of kids information such as cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying are those that worry the parents the most.
Snapshot by me
Actually, here we see that no matter how the platform changes, the basic relationship as parents and children remains the same. While parents are trying to catch up with new technologies to understand the era their children are living in, their concerns and desire of protection haven’t changed. Maybe letting the laptop go to sleep and sit beside mom and tell about your life and your thoughts is the best way of resolving this social media pet peeve. No matter how social media can bring people closer, somehow I still believe that the most ancient means of communication like talking face to face still connects people the best.