As you well know, the Parent Imperfect has often turned to this social media platform to rail against the evils of social media, especially for teenagers. How’s that for hypocrisy? In truth, I do feel quite strongly that social media, while surely a mixed bag, is damaging those young people whose social lives are so powerfully conditioned by their odd relationships with “friends” via hand-held computers supplied by their parents. I used to be able to feign self-righteousness on this until, just about a year ago, we made the irreversible and unforgivable mistake of getting Connie a smartphone. Being an eighth-grade girl is hard enough without an instantaneous connection to all the people who love you today, but will have a very different opinion tomorrow.
Setting limits is, of course, the way to a solution, but we find that setting limits on Vince and Connie has become much more complicated as they and their devices have become more sophisticated. The combination of being more knowledgeable about the space than their parents and boldly defiant at key moments has shifted the balance of power decidedly toward the kids in this discussion. Long, long gone are the days when strict parental controls on the Mac they used was all that we needed. Now setting limits usually means imposing similar constraints on ourselves, and we never quite get around to that.
Then, just as the parents approach the abyss of mindless prohibition, one well-known (to us) social media maven writes something suggesting that she may have more understanding of the problem than those who would sanction her. Asked by her ELA teacher to indicate that she was awake during the class about dystopian fiction, our favorite SnapChatter came up with something called, “Ciara Sees.” In it, she hints at a world in which “The Device” has made the transition from being constantly clutched to becoming a defining member of the human body. What follows is an except from the words providing the door into this strangely familiar world.
…Ciara walks through the corridor, hurrying and trying to muffle the noise of her sneakers. It’s her daily trip to the bathroom at school, but there’s something else on her mind. Scanning her arm at the entryway, the door swings open and she walks in. Her device looks just like everyone elses, but it’s different. Ciara wasn’t born with a device on her arm. In Rafertin, everyone (except Ciara, clearly) is born with a device. This device is where inhabitants get all information. All humans rely completely on their device to function. Ciara doesn’t.
The bathroom is gray. Looking in the mirror, Ciara holds up her arm to view the device. CIARA 10 it reads. AGE: 16. HAIR: BROWN. EYES: GRAY. MENU- NEWS, WEATHER, EMOTIONS. She chooses WEATHER. It reads -4 degrees Celsius and snowing. On her tiptoes Ciara peeks out the tiny window in the bathroom. It looks sunny outside. “But right,” she thinks, “I’m supposed to believe everything I see on the screen.” Her thoughts are interrupted by the swinging open of the metal door. In walks Galia 8. “Why are you wearing sneakers, it’s freezing outside and snowing” Galia barks. As Ciara begins to shake her head, she remembers that she must agree. “I must rely solely on the device,” she thinks. “Umm- well my mom, my m-.. I mean, my snow boots are too small. My mom is buying new ones on her device sometime today”, Ciara rushes to explain. She notes that her device reads 2:43 and counting. She has almost exceeded her 3 minute time slot for the bathroom. Hurrying, she swings open the door and stumbles out. “Weirdo”, Galia mutters.
A tear trickles down Ciara’s face. She begins to run. 2:52 2:53 2:54. She enters the classroom, panting. “About time, Ciara”, says the Device Studies Professor. On the board the word OLIMENTAL is written. “Can someone please explain what this word means to our beloved classmate Ciara?” The professor gives her a sideways glance. There is a smirk on his face. “Anyone?” A hand goes up. It’s Diandra 2. “Well, it basically means you’re different, stupid, annoying, bad…” she trails off when the professor gives her a hard look. Ciara muses, “I’ve seen this word somewhere before. Where was it?” She shifts in her seat, waiting for an answer.
And just what word would that be?