Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn – and many others to come, I am sure. They allow us to share fragments of our lives.
For myself, and my social “network” the sharing is mainly amongst our peers. My children are still learning to read, although as they do they notice what Mummy and Daddy are doing on computers, and get interested in what we’re writing. At the moment that’s a something we can easily control, just by switching windows or shooing them away. Josh (8 years old) thinks that Twitter is silly because you can only use 140 characters, but he does have his own blog although he doesn’t know he can subscribe to Daddy’s.
What happens when they get their own Twitter and Facebook accounts? And we can see them, and they can see us?
Currently, I write without concern for what my children might think. But in a few months I will probably have to explain every Tweet I make, every blog post, to my eldest Son. That will probably change what I write, but it will also mean he gets exposed to a version of “Daddy” which I’m not sure we’ve ever had to deal with before.
I introduced a friend of mine, who has teenage and adult daughters, to Facebook. Their Facebook world was very peer-centered, and I am sure it was a little shocking for Mom to have free access to that. Their one message to me (I’m “Mom’s friend” – a very “I don’t know what to do with this” bucket) was “Thanks, now you’ve somewhat ruined Facebook”. Which is fair.
What happens when our children see everything we write to our peers? If we do the Social Transparency thing right, I’m sure there’s some interesting ground there.
What happens when my kids get their own accounts, talking to their peers? And we see it all?
What happens when my colleagues kids start following me on Twitter, or subscribing to my blogs? Do I need to take account of that? Do I lose something when I do so?
Historically the relationship between Parent and Child has been pretty compartmentalised. That’s going to take a hit if the kids on the same social networks as the parents. Similarly, the Work Vs Home compartments disappear if your partner, children etc. are on each other’s Twitter or Facebook list – and those of your colleagues. (and even worse, if they choose not to be!).
I’ve always thought that the Work Vs Home distinction is somewhat artificial, something that’s only arisen in the industrial revolution. Perhaps the social networking revolution is taking us back to where we belong, but it will be a shock for us all. I’d like to think the end result is richer, more understanding relationships – but there will be uncomfortable moments. Perhaps we’ll emerge with a greater understanding of each other and our various roles in life, which can’t be bad.