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:
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.
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.
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!
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?