Nine ways your kids will learn about you from looking back at your old Facebook posts18 April, 2016
Most of us spend a lot of time uploading things to Facebook – but how many of us think about who will see it in years to come?
Parents may not realise the pictures they upload now could be available for their kids to see when they grow up.
So when the kids look back, what will they learn?
Could your grown-up kids ever get to know the younger you through Facebook?
To answer this question, we spoke to the Professor of Digital Social Media from the University of Southern California, Prof Karen North.
Here’s what she told us:
1. Facebook is the new family photo album
Prof North says: “One of the great things about digital is that it has become a multi-generational photo album and diary.
“And most of the time we’re quite aware of the fact that we’re doing something that is permanent.
“It’s going to be a fabulous tool for generations to look back. They’re going to learn a lot and watch a lot of what their parents and grandparents have done.”
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2. It doesn’t exactly mirror our real lives
Prof North says we tend to record only the things we want to record, so our Facebook profiles will be different to real life.
“People don’t record everything and they don’t record it accurately,” she adds.
“In psychology there’s a concept called self-presentation. It means people present themselves in different ways depending on the social situation.
“I’ll give you an example: If I’m hanging out with you in a pub, I might behave differently to if I’m standing next to a police officer. So I’m just behaving differently based on different social cues.
“And social media has very different social cues to face-to-face interactions.”
3. We are recording the best of ourselves for our kids, though
Thankfully, the things we do post tend to represent our good side.
She adds: “One of the things people almost always do is record their travel, so you can see family members and friends travel around the world or meet their old friends.
“So in generations to come there will be a record. A better record than we’ve ever had before.”
4. And there will be a lot more to look at
We are also recording far more stuff than we ever did before.
Prof North says: “I have a couple of pictures of my grandparents and a couple of pictures of my parents from when they were young. Just a couple.
“We didn’t have selfies, we didn’t have go pros.
“So it’s not just the digital platforms, we now have the tools to record ourselves and capture the moments that before we were not able to capture, because the cameras weren’t built to record action.
“We have the capacity now to look back and see our parents or grandparents doing the things that they loved to do in places that in past generations, even if they had done the things, there had never been an ability to capture it.
“So it’s a beautiful tool. I love it for that reason.”
5. But it won’t be able to recreate our personalities
“While social media can’t show people’s personalities,” adds Prof North, “it can show the next generation the interests, activities, friends and social life of their parents.
“But it’s still not an accurate representation of their personality.”
6. Our kids will be able to learn from our mistakes
Annoyingly, records of our mistakes will live on for longer than they would’ve done.
But Prof North says that’s not necessarily a bad thing, adding: “Parents are very good at talking to their kids and saying, when I was your age I did this, be careful of that, or I didn’t do this be careful of that.
“So now kids will be able to see their parents having done things that are not necessarily good decisions.”
7. While we might still be embarrassed by them…
There’s no getting away from this one, according to the Prof: “We’re already seeing individuals embarrassed by their own earlier posts. It’s pretty much impossible to remove images from the internet, but they can be hidden.
“There are huge companies in business to try to hide and camouflage people’s embarrassing images.
“It’s not just their kids, people are embarrassed by their own previous activity. People are finding that their bosses or their spouses or their new friends are appalled by what they did when they were younger.
“Yes, kids might be embarrassed by what their parents did in their past, parents might be embarrassed about what they did in their past and we are already seeing people embarrassed by their own behaviour.”
8. Most of us don’t really think about our digital legacy
“There are people who want to post pictures and comments and basically record their lives for posterity, but some people seem to do it because they just want to share what people write down.
“There are people who do it – especially parents – who decide that they want to document a few things so that their kids can see when they get older – special trips, special moments, birthdays.
“But people don’t really assume that they will always have access to their images or their comments.
“Facebook is becoming a utility. It’s an address book and a photo gallery, but the reality is that everybody said that about MySpace.
“So you just don’t know what’s going to be there and it’s not smart to count on somebody else’s private business to be your family resource. Because if something changes, your resources disappear.”
“And people get that – they don’t count on it.”
So what will our kids learn from us?
9. The answer is, whatever you want them to.
“When your kids look back and see your activity and behaviours from your youth, what will they find, and when they find something, what of it is going to be inspiring to them?
“Are you going to be able to inspire your kids and say ‘look what I did’ and ‘look where I went’, and ‘look at the fun I had’?
“Part of it will be embarrassing, and the embarrassing stuff is a really good opportunity to talk to kids and say, ‘Oh my god, look what I did when I was young. There are things online that I wish I hadn’t done – learn from my mistakes’.
“Parents are always lecturing kids, and now they’ll be able to show them. And the kids will say ‘well you did it’ and they’ll say ‘well yes, look at me!’ Look how great that is or how horrible that is’.
“The mantra is always talk to your kids.”
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