“Wow Mum, this mango cake looks super cool!” the little one drooled.
“Yep! But no touching! Let it cool first, then we’ll cut it into pieces and…”
“And take pictures and post them on Instagram and on Facebook and then tweet about it and then we can eat, am I right?” he beamed!
“What? No! Where is all this coming from?” I asked aghast!
It wasn’t that I was not planning on taking some pictures of this lovely cake that had turned out so spongy and looked all alphonso-yellow and super moist! But hearing my little one say this as if this was the whole purpose of having baked the cake and not the fact that it was the last day of his vacation; was what hurt me.
“But you do that all the time, Mum!”
“Sweetheart, I have told you before, my job requires me to post regular updates on social media and my work is such that it has to be shared on these platforms so that it reaches a lot of people and they can appreciate it and share it further…”
I was going all defensive now. I mean, what does he think? I enjoy being on social media all the time? Arey! Come on! I for one definitely know not all that we see and hear on the internet is true. I also know that everyone is here only as long as social media is fulfilling their need of getting visibility and popularity and for other very good reasons of their own. And here is my own flesh and blood not understanding that I have to do it as part of a job!
“Chill Mum, its okay, let me get your phone. I will take the pictures for you. You go get the knife…why don’t we put the plate on the wooden floor in my room today? The yellow of the cake will contrast wonderfully with the dark wood background!” the little one jumped enthusiastically and went to get my phone.
I stood there staring after him. Only nine and he is talking about contrasts and suggesting ways for me to make my pictures more interesting! And suddenly I realised, he wasn’t judging me that I will now post these pictures on social media, just stating the obvious. I didn’t need to get so worried or defensive, I chided myself. But the next moment, I felt miserable that my social media outings have become so commonplace for him!
On the one hand are my parents, still staggering on their way to understanding how all this works and where to type the comments so that they go under the respective posts and not as a status update. And on the other hand is my little one who helps me post Instagram pictures and manage my blogs online!
And caught in between are the husband and I.
We haven’t grown up with social media the way our little one is growing up, nor is this social circus as alien to us as it is to my parents. We are the generation that has accepted social media as a part of our lives. We don’t post hourly updates of our day on social media or tag each other on Facebook posts that we find interesting, but we use social media to socialize on a moderate scale. We use this space to keep in touch with long lost cousins, school friends and college buddies. We use this platform to stay updated on what is happening in the lives of the people who matter to us. Yes, we do have occasional “work friends” and (rarely) “clients” as our Facebook friends (and some mere “acquaintances” who sent us friend requests so fast after meeting them, that we didn’t really feel like breaking their hearts by not accepting their requests; but this isn’t the norm).
Then there are the requirements of a job as a blogger and creative writer. For people to read the stories, (and many times as part of a contractual requirement), the work needs to be shared and promoted on social media. (Same goes for the husband, who, though isn’t contractually bound to share anything on social media, is definitely bound by ‘natural love and affection’ to like and share my posts.) Needless to say, both of us use the social space only as much as we need to and aren’t yet (I hope) addicted to it.
But given the fact that our little one sees us using social media so habitually; I cannot help but worry how he will use this when his time comes? As much as we can, both the husband and I try to keep him off this social circus. But soon there will come a day when he will have a smart phone and he will have all these social media accounts and then he will be the one deciding whether to use this social exposure to his benefit or let it rule his life.
Will he exercise caution and restraint the way (we think) we do in our use of social media then? Will he have any real friends or will he only be satisfied with Facebook friends and Instagram fans and Twitter followers? Will he give in to the judgmental social circus or will he have the will and strength to stand up for himself? Will he learn to appreciate life and enjoy the moments of joy with abandon or will he be compelled to share every triumph or agony with strangers on a social platform to feel accepted and a part of the society?
I do not know the answers to these and many such questions. But what I do know, is that it is time I resolve to keep my phone away when he is around and enjoy my time with him. Not because I don’t want him to know about social media, (that is going to be an inevitable part of his life even more than it is mine); but because he will grow up soon and have a life of his own and that I will grow old soon and then I won’t have much to share. And then, when the world has forgotten my posts and ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ nothing of mine, then, (I hope) it will be him who will still be standing by me.