Social media is not going away, and nor should it. For all the nay-sayers out there who deem Facebook as the work of the Devil, just remember social media has always existed. Since the beginning of time, in fact. It was called word of mouth. The baker told the butcher about his latest new blend of grains, the butcher told the housemaid, the housemaid told the tailor, the tailor told the constable and gradually everyone knew about the fabulous new compilation the baker was using in his breads. Now, with the evolution of technology social media has become more than just status updates and shared links to videos of cats snuggling with dogs. The business world has finally begun to see the benefit of this techno-word-of-mouth phenomenon that has 500 million (active) users tweeting their every thought. Social media is a marketing tool. On one side of the fence it is a means for the baker to put the word out about his new grain blend. On the other side, it is the opportunity for the butcher, housemaid, tailor and constable to learn of the baker’s activities and pass along the information. Therefore it makes good business sense for companies to use Yelp, Twitter, Facebook et all as their voice to the consumer.
Not long ago there was an article released by the American Pediatric Society warning parents about “Facebook Depression”. Parents were directed to watch their Facebook-friendly children for signs of depression stemming from either too much exposure to social media, or negative interactions taking place there. Undoubtedly there were a lot of parents observing their teen’s behavior a little more closely after that article hit the cables. Alongside the warning was the explained “Fear of Missing Out” or FOMO. Apparently adolescents are glued to their laptops and smartphones 24/7 waiting for the tiniest signal from a social media outlet, just so they don’t miss out on Justin Beiber tickets. What parents seem to be missing the point on is FOMO is natural. What three year old has not had a temper tantrum at bedtime? The teen version of FOMO is just the same, only on steroids. Parents, it’s all part of growing up. Didn’t you ever go way too far on the side of punk and stick a safety pin through your nose? The difference now is technology, and the corporate world has noticed.
The music industry has always paid close attention to the demographics of their followers, but now it is so much easier to obtain and use that information. Your teen is not only drooling at the mouth for tweets from peers, they are also watching for the latest news on celebrities, musicians, fashion icons, gaming news and probably dozens of other subjects parents would shudder to hear of. Young people with after-school jobs have the most disposable income of any demographic, and business executives know that. Your grumpy 15 year old may not be saddled with Facebook Depression, but there is a pretty good chance he or she is probably sulking over not having the latest Toms or missing out on the Halo release. That doesn’t mean every parent needs to confiscate the internet. Nope, in fact let it be. This is a learning experience. Adolescents are moody, demanding, boundary pushing kids still trying to figure out who they are. Let them continue on the journey, they will thank you for it later.
Of course the caveat to all of this is good parenting. We still need to be aware of our children’s activities and who their friends are. The internet, not social media in particular, is acting as a vehicle for speeding up the learning process for kids today – in both good and bad ways. Accept their use of social media as a means of skill building, but it will take a sound parental influence with a good sense of boundaries to know how to spot dangerous behavior.
Social media is not going away. It is here to stay because no other form of communication gets information out to the masses as quickly. And since we are all social beings with an insatiable need for information, social media is our drug. Embrace it. Use it to your advantage. Make Twitter work for you instead of the other way around. Feed your Google+ profile through to Twitter, re-tweet industry related blogs you follow, Bump your contacts to build up your network, Yelp about favorite restaurants. All this in an effort to get traffic with your name pinned to it, flowing. Use social media to be more involved with your teen’s activities. They can hide, but they can’t hide from the web. Their obsession with social media is your ticket to knowing what they are up to. In the end, you will love the fact that social media is not going away.