Every discussion or conversation that I have had in the last couple of years has eventually ended up about the role of social media in the life of kids today or more specifically the role of Facebook. Almost every parent laments how their children are more influenced by Facebook than by them. How picnics are more about clicking photos to post on Facebook than actually enjoying them. I could go on and on about how Facebook has become more important than anyone else.

I recently saw an adolescent with diagnosable depression with suicidal ideation. Reason? That his posts did not get as many “likes” as that of his friends. This actually lowered his self esteem to an extent where he believed that his opinions are useless and expressing them is futile.

Another couple that I saw had trust issues because the wife had become friends (on Facebook) with her ex and had started liking his photos. Another wife had issues because her husband had not updated his Facebook status to “married”. She felt unwanted and rejected.

These matters may feel trivial when we read about them but they are a part of our reality. Now I have an image on social media as well which I need to maintain. And any image which does not get acknowledged is bound to make me feel low.

So what do we do? Many have considered the possibility of not falling prey to these sites. But this is difficult to follow in this world which spins on the axis of social media. Kids feel isolated, people feel disconnected from others and often such people are ridiculed by others. No solution lies in discarding a particular thing because it has a potential to harm. The answer often lies somewhere deeper.

Is this need for approval only limited to this generation? Agreed generations prior to this did not have Facebook but they still faced feelings of rejection, of mistrust and of poor self worth. Why? If the cause of all the evil is social media why did the symptoms exist prior to its existence?

The answer often lies in subtle aspects of our day to day life. We were brought up to have a high need for approval. Yes there was no social media but the approval seeking always existed. Remember as a 3 year old you were made to sing “twinkle twinkle” every time guests would come home or made to dance in front of all the aunties. Were we not made to do it for their “likes” though it was manifested differently? Did their praise of how well we did, not matter to our parents. I remember singing a song in front of my grandmother once. She told me to sing the same song at the next family get together. I recall her saying “what is the use of knowing such a beautiful song if you don’t show it to others”. I wonder how many “likes” I got for that performance!!

As we grew up our school results, our sports achievements or any other achievement were always for display for the society aunties and uncles. The medals and the certificates always adorned the significant part in the drawing room showcase where it would be seen and “liked” by others coming into the house. Everyone from the doodhwala to the courier wala knew how well we were doing in our lives.

Did the earlier generations not click pictures of their vacations with the sole purpose of showing it to their friends? I remember as a child attending get togethers where the family would pass around photos of their vacations while the others oohed and aahed about them. Was it different from posting it on Facebook? Of course you don’t get samosas and jalebi with pictures on Facebook!!!

And then of course there is the whole looking good thing. Being forced to dress up in a way which is “liked” by others. I remember the first time I draped a saree my grandmother took me kicking and screaming to meet all her friends. “See how many people said you look pretty?” Could you not see that yourself? For that I got the eternal “you look beautiful to me in you night clothes, you are my baby” lecture. Silly me did not realize that it was more important to get “liked” by others than by my grandmother who actually loved me.

It’s just not restricted to photos it is about life events too which the world should be aware of. Going around giving sweets to people you don’t know after getting admission in a prestigious college, calling up distant relatives to tell them about your son going abroad ……. BUT it is different from posting it on your timeline.

Finally, the whole huge wedding and the grand reception to announce your change in relationship status. I think it’s cheaper just posting it on Facebook. But no that is giving in to the evil social media. It’s more sophisticated to stand on stage sweating in clothes that you don’t like and will never again wear and announce to the world that you are man and wife. Not to forget clicking photos in ridiculous poses while others enjoyed a scrumptious meal at your wedding so that there can be more get togethers to see ‘shaadi ka album’ and gush over the Ram Seeta Jodi.

The point here is that we teach our children the need for approval. We bring them up to believe that no deed is worth doing unless the world approves of it. Why then do we criticize them about being addicted to social media? The earlier generation has done the same thing only without the smart phones. But then isn’t turning a blind eye to our mistakes a perk of parenthood??

Kids grow up watching us. They grow up imitating us. They learn to give importance to things we did. So why blame them?

If you agree please “like” the article on social media….my worth as a writer depends on your approval 😉

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