Last week , the below picture went viral all over the media, and I say media because it went beyond Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It was also on major network news and discussed on the radio.
I am the first to admit that I rolled my eyes at this story. Here it is, yet again, a bunch of young girls more obsessed with taking a selfie than interacting with the real world. But then something stopped me dead in my tracks.
The picture seemed familiar. I stared at this photo a bit longer.The girls were in a group sitting together. I imagined they were all part of the same club or team. They looked young, maybe in their mid-teens.
It dawned on me then. I remembered snapping a photo of my daughter and her friends — just a few years younger than this group — at a women’s soccer game last year. I can picture their duck faces and the tiny hands making peace signs with the game happening right behind them. We took it twice to get the look just right.
I imagined that picture showing up on millions of strangers’ news feeds, shaming them for being more interested in creating the perfect kissy face than watching the U.S. women’s soccer team. It was only a moment, but no one else knew that.
This group easily could have been my daughter and her friends. I wanted to vomit.
Yesterday, I came across this story clarifying the photo. It alleges that the girls were participating in a contest broadcasted to the entire stadium to tweet selfies.
Participating. In a contest. Having fun. In that moment of a three hour game.
When Fox Sports and the Diamondbacks offered tickets to another game, the girls declined and requested the tickets be donated to an organization that supports families of domestic abuse. This bold move is in stark contrast to the shaming these girls received from the Interweb.
So. well. played.
I like to think that as adults we learned from this experience. I see people sharing the second article all over social media saying we shouldn’t judge or that there are two sides to every story.
But that isn’t what freaks me out the most.
What scares the bejeezus out of me is that someone else took this picture of them. Someone else decided to use this photo and tell their story. Someone else took control of their experience and plastered it all over the Internet.
And no one else seems to be bothered by this.
I passionately talk to my kids about social media. I show them how a text can be forwarded to a group with a single touch of a button, or a message misconstrued. I lecture them about how nothing is “private” and how people are not always who they say they are. I am waiting until I feel the time is right to let them have their own phone, Instagram or Facebook.
But there is one thing I cannot protect them from on social media, one thing even I can’t control.
I can’t protect them from you and your ability to change their lives in an instant with your iPhone. Your taking pictures, your telling their stories, your providing the context.
And it scares the bejeezus out of me.
My daughters and I could never post a picture on social media again, and they could still end up the laughing stock of the World Wide Web without doing a single thing wrong. Just by being themselves. Having fun at an event where they didn’t even know someone was snapping their picture and deciding to hit “share.”
Because you sat behind them in the bleachers and saw their g-string sticking out. Because you thought their blue hair and nose ring were “funny.” Because you thought the way they danced during the seventh inning stretch was just like Elayne from Seinfeld.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, every embarrassing picture, every “funny” meme, every silly You Tube video we post and share on social media is somebody’s daughter or somebody’s son. It could be MY daughter. It could be YOUR son.
And we have more control than you believe. Simply by not hitting the share button, you are doing your part. Pausing, and imagining that it is your child in that shaming-selfie photo, your sister with her butt-crack hanging out in Wal Mart, your dad with the hair coming out of his ears and nose. Not posting or sharing that content is doing your part.
Because if we don’t teach our kids better, they will never do better.
It’s hard enough raising kids who respect social media. We shouldn’t punish the ones who are just trying to live their lives.
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