The world today is weird. We have taken our desire to share, to relate to others and to form relationships toward entirely unfathomable levels. It started with our generation — the so-called “millennials.” According to certain think pieces, it is our generation’s specific tendencies toward narcissism, materialism, apathy and laziness that have encouraged the development of social media like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and so on.
But this doesn’t explain one extremely present danger in the lives of college students — parents joining social media.
Everyone’s experienced it. Grandmas making statuses instead of wall posts, uncles asking what on earth a hashtag is, other various older relatives using “u” and “l8r” instead of “you” and “later.” It can be embarrassing for some, but to me it’s mostly endearing — like watching a newborn baby cow try to walk for the first time. They don’t quite get it, but they’re going to keep on trying ’till they do.
I’m not discouraging parents from getting involved in social media at all. In fact, I would encourage everyone to become more involved online. It’s a fascinating and often educational tool that can connect us with friends, loved ones and strangers around the world with minimal effort, and the trend toward increased interaction over social media is definitely not going away. I would rather my parents understand the culture and technology that dominates the interactions my siblings and I have with the world. What I am asking though — and not just of my parents in particular — is that we respect virtual boundaries.
There’s a strange phenomenon associated with putting yourself out there on social media. When you post a tweet or reblog a photo on Tumblr, that corner of the Internet can feel like your own private space. It’s like a safe and protected bubble where what you say and display is for your eyes only. The fact that strangers may be looking is almost insulating. They don’t actually know you in the real world. If you repost a poem about depression or a personal story, strangers don’t directly associate that with you.
But then parents come in. Our generation, having grown and developed alongside these means of communication, understands that there are unspoken ground rules. Unfortunately, parents — particularly mine — haven’t quite caught on yet. Posting something is rarely an invitation for discussion. If I tweet all the time about my frustrations with Lau and the pressures of Georgetown, it’s not necessarily an invitation to bombard me with questions about my happiness and mental state. Part of the nature of social media is that it’s instantaneous. So if I tweet about crying in my Village A listening to the “Glee” soundtrack, it’s not because I’m having an emotional breakdown per se; I probably just had a moment of profound self-awareness about the inverse relationship between the plotlines of “Glee” the TV show and the emotional weight of its Christmas music.
My parents are going to read this, and I would like them to know that I really don’t mind if they read or see what I post, and that I’m sorry for using them to make a general, sweeping statement about the generational divides in social media usage. It’s just that nothing triggers intense self-reflection on the insanity of your personal social media profile like your dad reading your tweet back to you — including the hashtag.
In the mean time, I would appreciate it if my parents continue to like all my photos on Instagram. It makes me feel popular.
Nicole Jarvis is a junior in the College. PARDON MY FRENCH appears every other Friday in