It happened innocently enough.
I was posting a new photo of Parker in one of his costumes to Instagram and tagging it to #Parkerpretends. Parker was watching over my shoulder and saw several names show up as “likes” underneath his picture.
“What are those names for Mommy?”
“Well when people like pictures on here they click the heart button to show they like it.”
“So three people like me? There’s another one! Four people like me! Now how many?”
If conversations could have a delete, rewind, or backspace button I would have been pushing it with both hands and my forehead.
I don’t want my children to look for “likes” or equate their value with the number on a computer screen. I’m not sure how to assure this doesn’t happen in our social media saturated world but my explanation of how Instagram works was not a good place to start.
I remember doubting haircuts and huge glasses and questioning shoulder pads growing up. I can’t imagine having those mirror-side debates in a world where a quick selfie posted online can bring in all the positive reinforcement or negative feedback my mirror couldn’t offer.
I realize my kids are going to go through all of the normal self doubt and confidence struggles every teen goes through but I’m not sure how to shelter them from the unnecessary opinions of the internet. Right now Parker loves costumes, he makes them, he wears them, he becomes whoever he has created. There is no one criticizing him for killing trees by using too much paper or telling him it’s silly to wear a Santa wig with a top hat. His creativity has all the room in the world to grow and I will do everything I can to foster that growth.
When I finished putting my foot in my mouth, Parker wanted to look through the other pictures of himself to see how many people had liked those too. We looked through his photos while I nonchalantly tried to rectify our conversation. I explained that usually people “like” photos when they have time to look through them and not everyone looks at every photo you post. He scrolled through a few more as I explained why I post his pictures. How it doesn’t have anything to do with how many people “like” them but it has everything to do with how much I like him.
I’m proud of him and his imagination and I’ll share his pictures until his embarrassment grows or his imagination shrinks even though I hope neither of these things happen. I don’t have a set plan for how to tackle the upcoming years of iPhone pleas and Facebook account begging but I know those days aren’t far off. Until then, I’ll fill him up with confidence and a sense of self worth so that when he is ready for the critiques and criticisms of the world at large he’s strong enough to know that the most important “like”
is the one we give ourselves.
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