Finding Hope on Social Media

This past weekend, we celebrated Father’s Day.  This is our opportunity to give thanks to the men in our lives who make a difference.  While there were BBQs and gifts, dad jokes and beer in some homes, there were also places where celebration was hard.  Not everyone is blessed to have a good relationship with their fathers.  Not everyone has a father who is still with them.  Some fathers continue to mourn the loss of their child.

A not so happy Father’s Day

This morning I saw re-tweets shared by my teenager from Fred Guttenburg (@fred_guttenburg):

‘Dear America, Today I will begin Father’s Day by going to the cemetery to visit my forever 14 year old daughter Jaime.  It is over 4 months since she was murdered at school.  Today, I am too sad to focus on myself and so no need for Father’s Day messages for me.  Instead…everyone please post or tweet a very simple message that simply say’s “I commit to vote orange in November #OrangeWaveInNovember”’

Following the trends

More and more, I am acutely aware of the reality that young people can be inundated by social media trends and information which doesn’t paint a very good picture of this world.  How do you find good in the words of a father who mourns the loss of his child from a senseless school shooting?  What is hopeful about the Twitter trends: #IfIDieInASchoolShooting (which I previously discussed here) or #WhereAreTheChildren (which protests children being taken from those who are coming into the US looking for a brighter future).

Our teenagers have access to information, conversations and media which makes it painfully clear that world is not fair and robs them of the innocence that had been previously associated with being young.  Young people should bask in the knowledge that they have their whole lives ahead of them and yet, they are seeing too many examples of how this is not true or that what is ahead will not be overly amazing.

Looking Deeper

While these trends may be heartbreaking, it is important to continually dig deeper, to recognise that social media has given a space for voices to be heard – not solely the voices of the powerful but also those voices which could otherwise be easily silenced.  Through social media Fred Guttenburg has the space to encourage others to use the tools available to them to make meaningful change.  Through social media David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez and others are able to rally students to #MarchForOurLives.  Through social media we have heard women cry out #MeToo and #TimesUp.  Through social media we have heard the rallying cry #BlackLivesMatter and shown support for those grieving as we #PutYourSticksOut.

Navigating the Trends with our teenagers

Social media trends can feel overwhelming.  Compounding this problem for parents is that the medium can also feel new and foreign for us.  Still, it remains important for us to be aware of the kinds of information and stories to which our children have access through their various social media accounts.  Open conversation can create space to help all of us confront the anxieties of living in 2018 and open our hearts to hope for what is to come.

What do you do?

In our efforts to support our children through the images, conversations and uncertainty highlight by so many social media trends, what do you do?  Do you follow your children/teenagers on their social media accounts?  How do talk with your teenagers about what they are seeing on social media?  Where do you find hope?  How do keep from feeling overwhelmed by the content and/or the medium?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/ and Follow us on Twitter @ThriveFamilies.