Let me tell you the story behind this photo:
Miss M is at her dad’s this week. On Tuesday afternoon, after dropping her off, I started getting text messages from Facebook — someone had downloaded Facebook and Facebook Messenger to a Kindle and was trying to change my password. I knew who that tricky little someone was. I texted her dad and alerted him. Then, that night, I was checking my email, and I’m sifting through 10 or so emails from Amazon letting me know this weird game app, that weird game app, and this other game app (all $0…she has learned how hard the consequences will be for ordering apps that cost real money) had been downloaded too. Oh, yeah. AND TINDER. (Whaaat?!?! Remember when I wrote about what Tinder is like?? She doesn’t know, and had heard about Tinder on a YouTube channel. Heartbreaking. Lands, y’all. Kids are exhausting.) But that’s why she’s asking “Did you get an email about a Vine?” Because she knows now (because I let her know): there is no hiding what you do…I am your Goddess, I WILL FIND OUT.
Her dad thinks social media is of the devil, and doesn’t do it at all. I think he has a Twitter account, but it’s private and he just uses it to keep up with his sports things. I’ve always found this fascinating, because Miss M’s dad and I met via social media/online dating, when it was in its infancy (yahoo personals, in their wild west days when they were free of charge because no one had yet figured out what a cash cow online dating would be). As we were together longer, he began to really hate it. I think because he believes I used it as an escape (well, yes…that’s why it was invented, wasn’t it?). Or he just sees the many problems with it.
At any rate, Miss M has become obsessed with having her own Instagram account, and now (apparently?) a Vine. I can tell: when she’s of age, whatever’s in vogue then…she’ll be all over it. ALL OVER IT. (I have a headache just thinking about it.) She loves scrolling through my Instagram and liking pictures from people she doesn’t even know. If she thought she could get away with it, she’d leave comments too. The problem with this is that these comments look like they’re from me. I cannot even tell you how many Internet safety talks Miss M and I have had over the last 3 years. Once, she took a picture of her finger close up so it just looks like a red mess. As a description she posted: “This is my blood.” My sister in law had to check on me to make sure I was okay.
I don’t know how many times I’ve written about social media on this blog or my old one, more than 20 times over the last year or so, I bet. I make jokes about it, because we are so ridiculous as a species…are we not? I kind of wring my hands about it, because it causes so much friction in personal relationships so often, including my own. And yet I see its intrinsic value at a certain level — we can share our joys, our sadnesses, our fears, our anger, our cute cat videos, our babies’ latest milestones. It’s also one way you can share yourself out of a job or a marriage or a friendship. We are at once our own best friends and our very worst nemeses.
So you’ll understand why I say I have angst about it for Miss M. She knows it exists — she’s been on YouTube and all the teenage YouTubers are on social media and vlog about their exploits on it. One reason my own YouTube channel has an Amy & Melissa show on it is so M can get her vlogging needs met, and I can control her content. This is how we do now, Humanity: Like that, share this, add your comment down below. And I am not raising an introvert who just wants to read quietly in her room or daydream; I am raising a slightly shy extrovert who wants the love and adoration of thousands. (…Slightly shy because when she first meets you, she’s a little cautious…but once you laugh at one of her jokes or let her know in even some subtle way you think she’s cute, she’s all yours, baby. Which is awesome for you, if you like a child who wants you to repeat that one joke or that thing you just did 10 million more times. This is where most of Miss M and I have our issues — I think it’s only funny or cool once or twice, she thinks the joke can live on forever until the sun explodes this planet.)
And I know there are those of you out there reading this right now, judging me. Going, “Well, keep her off the Internet! You’re a terrible mother.” You understand that the Internet is a THING now, right? You judgers? You understand that even in school, teachers use YouTube to supplement their lessons? You get that the programs your children are using in the computer labs are Internet-based, and very social media-y in nature because this is how we have decided to do things now, those of us in technologically advanced societies? So you telling me: “Just keep her off the Internet, momma!” Is like you telling me to put some chocolate in front of her and demand she not look at it, smell it, or eat it. Riiiight. (And F you for judging me…parenting is hard, and there is no one right way to do it. Just because your kids don’t get on the Internet….YOU THINK…doesn’t mean that’s the right way. Good god, you guys are like those religious pamphlet pushers that won’t get off your doorstep until they finish their pedantic proselytizing.)
Miss M is merely seven. She’s seen a lot more than I had when I was seven, but when I was 7 we all weren’t walking around with tiny computer phones in our hands and pay phones were still A Thing. I’d wait breathlessly each year for The Wizard of Oz to be shown on one of our ten channels, because DVRs and DVDs hadn’t been invented yet. There were 4 ultra-important holidays I cared about in my life: my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and The Wizard of Oz on a regular television that got its channels via an antennae on the top of our roof.
Miss M, however, has access to over 100 cable TV channels, the Internet upon which you can find pretty much anything you can think of, she can stream entire TV series and movies, she can talk to other children on the other side of the world in real time. The enormity of what she has access to, compared to what I had access to at her age, is both magically mind-blowing and incredibly terrifying.
And yet I remember being very young and reading, then asking about, a word on the cover of a magazine (S-E-X if you must know), and my mom refusing to explain it to me. This was how parenting was done prior to advanced technology, and there was nothing wrong with it; I turned out just fine. I kind of just answer the questions, though, as a parent now. This is hard; I have to balance how much I think she’s ready to know vs how much I want her to know vs how much I think she really needs to know. And I do this because I’m so naive myself, you guys. I’m so very naive. It’s really important to me to raise a person who’s knowledgeable about all the possibilities in the world, who’s aware of how very beautiful and magical this planet is but also how terrifically terrible it can be. I was hanging out with a friend last night and he showed me octopus porn on the Internet. What the serious F, people of Earth. I mean, really???
My point is I didn’t know. There are people who find octopus porn highly erotic, and I literally had no idea. I will never be able to watch Finding Dory again now…and because I am 50% less naive than I was ten years ago, I also know there are other even more ludicrous things on the Internet, right now, that I do not know about that will shock the ever-loving crap out of me because I am, and have accepted I will always be, naive to the inner disgustingness of my fellow human beings. But I want to protect my child from these things, but how do I, if I do not even know they exist?? It’s such a worry of mine. I mean, y’all. I literally only just recently learned about Netflix and chill.
And yet. And yet. There is a darkness to childhood. All of the classic, best literature for children has and recognizes this darkness, and children know it. It’s why they’re drawn to them: Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Hobbit, A Wrinkle in Time, Black Beauty, The Little Matchbox Girl…these are all stories I was drawn to as a child, stories I read over and over again. For their adventures, for their characters, and (little did younger naive me know) probably for their darkness. Because childhood is always painted by the media (and social media) as a magical time, when fun and memories are made…which it is. But it’s also a dark time, with dark things that happen and you don’t understand. And now there’s social media to wade through. And people having sex with octopuses. I know some of you will vehemently disagree with me, will think me too broad or very liberal, but poop, everybody. I think I’d just rather just have long talks and careful explanations with my sweet girl about these things, than to leave her wondering. But I also want to leave her sweet. Yet I want her to wade through the darkness a bit on her own too, it’s part of growing up. But I don’t want her to get lost.
Parenting is hard, especially in this day and age when everybody with a keyboard’s got an opinion about how to do it.
sigh. I don’t know. I don’t know what my point is, really. I’m also still emotionally recovering from THIS video I saw via a friend’s post on Facebook. When I say “I sobbed through this,” I mean I literally sobbed. All the way through it. Shocked hand on mouth, weeping copious amounts of tears, hard crying. On the one hand, twenty years ago something like this would have happened and been quietly swept away. Now, citizens have the ability to police the police…and holy god, there are some police that need policing. On the other hand, my child…oh my heart, you all. My child. What will you be like in 8 more years, World, when I’m finally willing to let her have her own Instagram and Facebook and Vine and Snapchat or whatever else you’ve come up with by then accounts? What will you be like.
But thank god we can stream The Wizard of Oz now, whenever we want. There’s still some innocence on the Internet in that.