This week my Mum, Cynthia Merrill is guest blogging! I hope if you don’t follow her on Twitter or IG, you will (@cyndisueboo). She has super good ideas about thinking, reading, and teching! But, the BEST part is that she believes in kids A LOT and, she especially believes in ME!
Recently, Liv asked me if she could delete a follower (and all her posts about her) from her Twitter and Instagram accounts. At first, I thought nothing of it, until she followed up with a brief explanation. It seems this person had gone from rabidly retweeting, liking, or commenting on Liv's posts, to virtual silence. She felt hurt and confused, especially when she could see that she was promoting other kids as actively as she had once promoted Liv.
This gave me a lot of pause – trying to figure out how to best support Liv in her growing understanding of adult behavior in digital spaces – spaces where the “slights” can sometimes feel bigger and are public. While also being mindful that Liv’s recognition of this didn’t necessarily give her the maturity to understand all of the machinations of why some adults act suddenly dismissive.
Social media slights are very real. They may not be talked about all that much, but I can attest to the feeling of not getting a seat at the “popular” table. In social media we have different names for groups of people that support each other, the most popular probably being PLN. The reality is that some PLNs function like a middle school lunchroom table -- the outright promotion of some people, and the exclusion of others. I listened this weekend as an accomplished friend told me how she had to “step away” from her social media feed because of the sheer panic she felt when she read how much other people were doing, experiencing, supporting, and learning. She felt like a complete failure.
Liv’s realization of the once fan now silent has more to do with the fan, and how she has moved on, than it does with Liv. But, as a parent, I am deeply aware that I allowed this to happen. I have found that with Liv’s success comes people who like her for what she can provide for them. Recently, an expert in social media research interviewed me – her first question asked why I would put Liv in social media spaces when the recommended age for these platforms is thirteen. It’s an honest question, and it deserved an honest answer.
I think thirteen is too late. Developmentally, 13 year olds are already finding their space from parents, figuring out their identity, and more often than not heavily influenced by peers and celebrity social media accounts. Helping Liv navigate these spaces at 9 and 10 is EASIER than it would ever be at age 13. She understands my role as an active guide on the side of her social media life. Initially, she would see my posts on Twitter and Instagram and mirror her own posts after mine. As her knowledge grew, she discovered that she had a talent for hashtags that people seemed to really like. As her followers quickly grew, she gained confidence interacting with them. Honestly, her biggest delight is meeting a follower in real life. I think this might be the opposite of many adults on social media – I’ve heard many adult stories of how meeting followers in real life is awkward and, at times, even disappointing.
Liv’s delight in moving from digital relationships to real relationships provides us with a demonstration of how a digital native imagines the convergence of her lives – she doesn’t imagine them as separate. She sees both spaces as opportunities to be real.
Adults often fumble their way through these spaces because they see them as separate from their real lives. Social media brings out sides of adults that most of us wouldn’t see in person. Liv shares in her presentations: “Who you are online, should match who you are offline.” So, if we push this idea a bit further, we can assume that any adult that would go silent on a kid online would be equally silent outside of the digital space. If those adults are teachers, this causes me to be seriously concerned. If those adults are ones she sees promoting digital citizenship or running chats about empowering kids, it’s really a fraud.
Digital space is REAL space. For Liv -- it’s life, it’s love, it’s learning. It’s a chance to connect and grow. Consider your interactions online – are you authentic -- have you gone silent on someone? If so, why? Was your intent to hurt? Think about the person sitting behind the screen. Make it right.
For me, I am making it right with Liv. I encouraged her not to delete the once fan. I’m helping her understand complicated behavior. Thankfully, she has so many incredible mentors who don’t look at their interactions with her in an opportunistic way -- they understand how real Liv's feelings are. These mentors are also just as delighted meeting Liv outside of social media, as she is meeting them. One recently messaged me and said, “Thank you for sharing Liv with the world…she makes my world better…falling in love with her is so easy…and so REAL.”
That’s what it’s all about.
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Hi, I'm Liv and I am super excited to share my thinking with you!