Friday, July 5, 2013

Future Advice for My Son: No Crying Selfies

Hello dear Kiddo, this is your mother. 

Sometimes, in this wacky world of ours, I see something that is so deeply disturbing--and far too trendy-- that I feel it must be discussed at all costs, lest you make the same miserable mistake I see so many young people making these days. 

Now, before you start off by saying "now, Mom, I know-- I know... even if everyone jumped off the Burnside Bridge, I will have the smarts and common sense not to. I know how to be cool by NOT being a follower", consider this-- I'm sure that the people who have made the mistake I'm about to mention also thought of themselves as individuals. Individuals with their own unique feelings on their own unique path...

...yet, that path is one of humiliation and regret. That path will likely only lead to public mockery at worst, severe eye-rolling at the very least. 

I know that you are growing up in an age of unprecedented self-absorption and increasing (like, off the charts!) narcissism, so it's natural that you might want to post your every feeling and experience online. You are a kid in a new world, I get it. These days, it's not enough to just call your one good friend and share your heartache like a more dignified, gray-haired older person might have done back in their day. You know, using those antique telephones- hey, we used to have outrageously long extension cords for those so you could take it into your room... or the wall-mounted ones had super-long spiral cords so you could hide behind the island in the kitchen to talk with some pretense of privacy. We all did this when Dad and I were kids. We'd call a friend and talk when we had something to share.

Now, your words can reach so many people at one time. An image can go out to the masses in as much time as it takes for me to blink. Which is why I feel I must, must caution you against one of the most stomach-twisting trends of self-expression possible:

The crying selfie.

I'm sorry, young man, but there is nothing that screams "not ready for technology" more than this horrid misuse of social media. Please, if you are upset, come talk to myself or your father. We will likely be sympathetic, we will try not to point out the lesson within your disappointment too, too hard, and I can nearly guarantee that there could be some ice cream in it for you if you look sad enough. Come talk to us, or call up a friend if you need to talk.  We won't hover, we will let you talk without interruption, even if it is on the landline. We have progressed to the cordless phone, so you can take it into your room. Yippee!

Non-judgmental listening, ice cream, the promise of unlimited phone use on the landline... all of that. So long as you promise us-- please promise us-- not to go posting sad pictures of yourself online. Because every time I see one, I have to wonder: why the hell is this kid's parents letting them post these horrible pictures of themselves in all their pain and woe? Who forgot to teach that kid to have enough regard and respect for themselves so as not to make a spectacle out of a hard moment? This is akin to the sad sack girl at a party, crying in the corner to get attention. Young son of mine, we all see through that girl. Let me be blunt: if she really, truly felt like such shit about something so gut-wrenchingly heartbreaking that she has to be sobbing at someone else's event, she should have stayed home. Instead of using good social judgment (not to mention manners) and staying home, she brought her need for a pity party along and is now going to be the downer in the corner whom everyone 'checks on' but no one really has much empathy for. 

Truthfully, when we see attention-crying in a social situation, it's all just ugly and awkward and we wish that it would Just Go Away. 

This is what I want you to think about if you are ever tempted to post a crying selfie pic:

1. Did you do the necessary problem-solving that was available? In short, are you crying over spilt milk when you have a clean-up rag in your hand? 

2. Are you making a mountain out of a molehill?  That is to say, have you zoomed in on your sad moment to the point that you are magnifying the situation all out of proportion?

3. Did you check your pulse before you send that weepie picture of yourself? That means two things: First,you are still alive and therefore this is not the end of the world as you might, in your youth, perceive it to be. Second, it means that you are still among the living and will therefore be alive as your peers mock you for it. 

4. Whatever it is that is hurts so bad for you now is probably going to be small potatoes compared to the pain and loss you will experience as an adult. Not that adult upset is superior, but it usually has more catastrophic consequences. (Unless the adult is a Drama Queen, then of course all bets are off.) The heartbreaks and disappointments of today are practice to make you stronger for the stomach-lurching future disasters of adulthood. Learning to cope with them in a dignified manner as a young person will be of benefit in the future when the stakes are higher and the degree of maturity in how you handle disappointment will have far more impact on how things shake out than then do now.

All that to say, son, no crying selfie pictures. None. This will only show a lack of character, lack of good judgment, and result in my saying "Well, why don't you just put it on a billboard in the middle of town?" before I take away every possible access to social media  you might have. Seriously, sweetie, don't mess with me on this one. No Crying Selfies. Period. If I have to explain any further why the Crying Selfie is so bad, we'll also be discussing the virtues of having a shred of dignity and a modicum of self-respect. And likely finding a therapist who will be able to teach you how to deal with disappointment old-school style, like crying in your room, slamming doors and screaming "My life is over! OVER!" at the top of your lungs the way we did back in the day. Real, authentic teenage anger. Dad and I can deal with this. We can even deal with few expletives if you are detailing why life isn't 'fair' at that moment. 

That's the deal: you get to scream and curse if it's truly necessary. Be undignified at home, with us. We've even seen you do some pretty embarrassing stuff when you were little, so this is really not going to phase us. (Oh, and we didn't take a picture of it and send it to everyone. We have practice in preserving your dignity.) No crying selfies, 'kay?

We love you or we wouldn't care enough to say no. 
Mama

5 comments:

hakea said...

Today, I was thinking of writing a blog post starting "Dear Soccer Coach" and listing all of the horrible things they do to kids and what they can do instead.

And then I thought I'd come over and see what you are up to.

I'm going to google 'crying selfies' and find out what they are. I've never seen one. I'm so far behind the times.

hakea said...

Ew, they are so icky.

Hazel M. Wheeler said...

Hi Hakea,

First, yes, the crying selfies are terrible. I have recently seen a couple and they are just horrid.

Yes, do write a piece for the soccer coaches (is it soccer in Australia, or football? so hard to figure out who calls it what). Kiddo took a one week soccer camp through the parks&recreation dept; his coach, I discovered later, is a security guard at a local high school. Thus, he treated the 5-6 year olds as if they were older, including calling my son "Grandpa" because he was the slowest runner. Yep, he gets it from me-- but really, how encouraging is that?!

hakea said...

They are trying to get us to call it "football" but it will take a few generations to get "soccer" out of our vocabulary.

Grrr soccer coaches grrr

How about an angry selfie, or a frustrated selfie, to demonstrate my dislike for what soccer coaches do to kids?

Hazel M. Wheeler said...

Ha, angry and frustrated selfies... perhaps you could start a new site with those pics called 'Crankypants Ladies' and solicit photos from other angry, frustrated mums.:)