What if your parents had used social media?

Have you ever wondered: what if your parents had had social media?

What types of things might they have shared? And would you have wanted to read it?

My parents were born in 1950 and met while they were teenagers; my mother gave birth to me three days before her 20th birthday. All I have now of their early history are the black and white photographs they’ve roughly divided between them since divorcing when I was in primary school, and some sketchy affectionate and wistful stories my mother occasionally shares.

I know, from their photographs, that they were good looking and not afraid to pose for the camera. Sadly there are no letters, postcards, newspaper clippings or diaries to tell their history. If social media had been around then – or something similar to nudge people toward recording their daily lives – I might have a better picture of the types of people they were and what they were going through.

To write this blog post, I’ll need to employ a lot of speculation. Based on my knowledge of my parents’ personalities, I think I can pretty safely say my parents would have used social media as follows:

Selfies

Oh, there would have been plenty of selfies. You only have to look at the snaps of my father in his skinny jeans, wide-collared shirts and fat belts, with tousled blond hair, leaning against a wall, to know he would’ve been a big believer in sharing his good looks with a wider audience. My mother’s selfies might have been a little more coy, but I’ve no doubt she would have employed Instagram to capture her smouldering eyeliner, miniskirts and leather jacket.

Prakky's mother, 1970s
Prakky’s mother, 1970s

Facebook

Now, this is where things get sticky. My mother might have posted  passive aggressive posts about their relationship, what time my father was getting home, how bored she was and how overbearing her Dutch mother-in-law was. Dad would be very much into the ‘like for a rate’ updates while a teen, but in his 20s I don’t think he would have been sharing many status updates. He might take part in Facebook groups about fast cars and Jimi Hendrix.

Twitter

My mother would have shared tweets about wine o’clock and would have tried desperately to be tweeted by her favourite celebrities like John Lennon or Barry Gibb. My father – I don’t think he’d be a tweeter.

Tumblr and more

My father enjoyed painting when very young, and would no doubt have enjoyed following artists and creative communities and musicians’ blogs. He could have had a Tumblr to share art work or quote from writers; he might even have joined communities like Deviantart and Redbubble or shared his shipyard and wharf photographs on FlickR.

What does this all mean?

I’m leaving behind a wealth of content for my sons to delve into – provided it’s still available as a readable format, and they’re at all interested!

Prakky and brother of Prakky, 1970s
Prakky and brother of Prakky, 1970s

I tweet and use Instagram regularly and I’d be surprised if my sons have the patience or desire to read through them all. I also know that the sites and tools I’m using today may not exist in the future or be somehow inaccessible. If I’m very keen to use my social media content to document my life for future generations, I’ll download and archive it, leaving instructions for how to access the content after I die. There are services which help with this, which I’ve written about before in Deadly Serious About Social Media.

Many of us are documenting our lives and our children’s lives (which I’ve written about this previously in Who will remember the children.) I share photos of my sons and occasionally funny stories about something they’ve said, or status updates full of pride for their achievements. I try to keep these innocuous and non-embarrassing, but I don’t kid myself that my definition of embarrassing is the same as theirs. And my sons’ view of my social media stories relating to them will change over the years as they mature. I’m conscious that I’m documenting not just my own life, but theirs.

How about you?

Can you imagine being able to look back on your parents’ Facebook walls to see stories of their evolving relationship? How they felt about their own parents, school, the politics and events of their time? Imagine seeing online photographs of your progress while growing up? Those photos of you taking a bath in the kitchen sink, chewing on a teddy bear’s ear, or sleeping with long-lashed eyes closed peacefully? There’d be a lot to cherish and marvel over, but a lot that would mortify you and perhaps even cause you to shed a tear.

How about a personal blog, or tweets  about their daily lives? Instagram photos of their meals?

Do you wish your parents had had social media?

18 thoughts on “What if your parents had used social media?

  1. Brilliant (yet too short – I could’ve read more) article. I have often theorised myself about this exact thing, both what I could read of my parents social media – and what my daughter will read of mine.

    Love the way you think

    1. Thanks David, appreciate the feedback. I would have liked to write more but didn’t want to overshare my theories about my parents. 😉

  2. Yes, I sure do wish they had. I’d take some embarrassing stories if me if I could get close to my (no longer with us) cherished father and remember more about him. My mum uses social media a lot now!

  3. I’m sure my parents would have been avid users of social media as they are both quite computer savvy, My dad follows numerous blogs on horse racing, wine and the stock market and would have probably used instagram if the numerous boxes of home movies and photos cataloguing our lives and fashion is anything to go by
    Even though I enjoy some social media, obviously not to the same degree as Prakky, I’m glad there wasn’t FB or Instagram when I was a teenager as it would leave me wide open to come back from Mr A & Mr S “well you did/wore/drank that as a teenager, why cant I”.
    So thankfully now my children (and I) can live in the knowledge I was a good girl who didn’t do that, wear that or drink that much because the only people who know, would never tell!

    1. Oh, I’m sure you were a very good girl, Meg.

      Your point about your Dad is really interesting. I think some people are natural ‘cataloguers’ or memory-keepers.I kept a lot of handwritten diaries when I was in primary school and into university and I’m sure that’s partly why I enjoy social media so much.

  4. Great blog! Really interesting and I think you may have hit on great topic for those studying recent and contemporary history. Great thesis topic! As soon as I read this I wondered about applying this question to famous people in history. Can you imagine if Shakespeare had social media – or even better looking at the exchanges between him and Bacon and Marlowe on Twitter. Wow – now that would be interesting!

    1. Hey Amanda, thanks for reading. There were actually a few parody Twitter accounts for figures like Shakespeare but I haven’t seen many of them well maintained over the long term. They tweeted as if they were that person from history and it was fun reading!

  5. If I go by the number of photographs they took I would say my parents would have had very patchy and mostly unused social media accounts. Although mum may have spent some time creating a “OMG, Max Bygraves is HOT” Facebook page.

  6. Born in 1949 I am in your parents’ generation. Must say I feel a bit squeamish about posting pics of the children or grandchildren. It feels like an invasion of their privacy. My dad took hundreds of slides and they would be fun to trawl through now, if it was easy. We are such products of our time – it’s hard to imagine taking social media on so fully then as it is now. It is fascinating to see your images Prakky – thanks for sharing! I think the most powerful visual diary I’ve seen is by a father who took weekly pics of his child for 14 years. YouTube perhaps?

  7. Well, I’m somewhere between your age and your parents’, Mich … so I’m caught in the middle. I suspect my Dad would have found stuff on social media that interested him (particularly around jazz) and would have been on Google Groups rather than Google+, I think.
    Mum would have been active on FB or similar, but only with a relatively small circle of family/friends. Me? Well … you know where I am 🙂

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