Me and my little lightbulbs in the bluebonnets!

Me and my little lightbulbs in the bluebonnets!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Three Reasons Why I Don't Want You to Like My Kids

During one of my rare TV-watching moments, I found myself landing on my favorite station ever: PBS. I was instantly drawn into a Frontline episode called Generation Like. The focus of this eye-opening documentary was the tween generation growing up addicted to instant popularity based on "likes" either through Instagram, facebook or other forms of social media.

One mom was commenting on how it was she who took the pictures for her daughter, making sure to include as many "full body shots" as possible so she could increase her likes. In essence, she was pimping out her daughter (who usually was a little over exposed in these photos for my taste), so she could be more popular online. She was feeding the beast. I could go into a lot of Freudian/Jung theories on why I think this was so important to the mom, but I digress.

What wrenched my heart was the look on this poor young girl's face when she finished filming one of her videos, imploring people to like her pages, follow her tweets, befriend her on facebook. When the camera turned off, she suddenly looked lost, as if she had no idea what to do next.

Is this really what our youth has to look forward to? Is this the modern-day version of being asked to the "cool party"? I hope not. But just in case, I'm going to give my boys a few reasons why being liked is way over-rated (much like a lot of those cool parties):

1. Don't Aim So Low
My boys are ages 6 and 10, so we haven't even dipped our toe into the cyber world yet, and I hope it's still a ways off. But, when we do enter that sphere of somewhat warped ideals, I hope they will understand that I don't want people to like them. I want people to know them, to invest in them, to cherish them. Like is too flimsy of a word to describe what my beautiful boys deserve from the rest of the world.

2. Jesus Never Told Us to Just Like Anything
Jesus didn't ask Simon Peter if he "liked" him. He asked "Do you love me?" Not once, but three times, using various versions of the word love. He never tells us to "like" one another. He says, "love one another." He never tells us in his parables to "go out and get as many people to like you as you can." No. He says "go out and make disciples."

I don't want you to like my kids any more than I want them to just like Jesus. Instead, I want them to seek out people who want to have an invested relationship with them, to pour into them wisdom and kindness, a sense of adventure and exploration. I want them to find people who get off their computers and breathe the fresh air of a mountain sunrise. My boys, and all young people, deserve to be embraced, physically and emotionally, by true friendships. After all, isn't this what Jesus was trying to tell us to begin with?

3. Experience Disappointment
Unlike a cyber relationship, there are emotional risks involved with real physical encounters. My boys will, most likely, be disappointed by others. They might be pushed around or mislead by those they thought cared for them. But these are the lessons we learn by looking people in the eyes, encountering them in person. At that point, my children will learn a much different word altogether: caution. Can you learn that by pandering to whoever might be trolling the Internet at 3 a.m.? I think not.

So, if you happen to have children who are a little over-committed to their phone, computer or camera, chances are they are becoming addicted to the instant gratification of a "like" or a "following" status. My advice: unplug them so they can plug into a truly meaningful relationship that could have lifelong dividends. And that is something that's really worth "sharing."