11 Ways Social Media is Turning Us into Teens

Lisa writes: Facebook was developed by teenagers, for teenagers and I wonder if it, and its cousins Pinterest, Twitter, Reddit and Google+, are not turning us all into adolescents. Adults conduct their social interactions differently than teens and young adults but social media invites us to sound like our youthful selves. Social media is caught in time, in the student years, when most of us cared desperately about others’ opinions and were far less secure about ourselves.

With maturity we have less need to brag, and more need to deeply connect with others. Our ability to communicate has evolved and improved but the constructs we use in social media have not. Even as adults, we are using the tools of teens to communicate as we venture into social media, not always to the best effect. Here is the challenge to keep social media from turning us into teens:

1. On social media we clamour for the attention of those we barely know while, because of  its allure, we can overlook those seated at our own dinner table. The last time I ignored the people I lived with I was fifteen years old, the next time was when I got on Pinterest.
Facebook, twitter, social media ways of communicating
2. Teens like to complain, and parents learn to ignore it. Life isn’t always what we had hoped and accepting this is a defining characteristic of adulthood. Twitter is a complainer’s paradise full of first world problems and bragging, thinly veiled as complaints. 140 characters seems to be just the right number for whining.

3. Life is certainly not too short to type out entire words or phrases such as “never mind,” “talk to you later,” or even “awesome.” By midlife we know there will be enough time to type a word out in its entirety.

4. Adults value friendships for their depth and quality, but social media is all about quantity. Facebook is not the place for heartfelt conversations with three close friends, rather it is a place where we can delude ourselves into thinking we really have 3,728 friends.

5. True friendships, at any age, brim with good conversation focused on shared interests. Interchanges on Facebook and Twitter may be little more than a string of short, clever quips and sarcastic banter, with “Woo Hoo” and exclamation points thrown in for effect.

6. Social media promotes narcissism, or at the very least self-absorption. It beckons us to talk constantly about ourselves, showcasing our every move through photos to thousands of people who barely know us. The line between social interaction and bragging is constantly blurred.

7. Social media makes rude, not rude. Many teen boys become monosyllabic, grunting adolescents who, fortunately, outgrow this awkward stage. Social media allows us to think that one word answers are not rude and that the abbreviated vernacular of 13-year olds is acceptable.

8. Who would think that facial expressions with all their complexity and the range of human emotion which they convey can be replaced with small yellow faces tacked onto a message?

9. Social media means never having to be alone. Quiet solitude is something adults greatly value as a time for thought and reflection, but teens seem to constantly seek out social interactions and Facebook friends can always be found.

10. I was a Valley Girl and over the course of years I learned to stop saying “OMG,” “I can’t wait,” “so excited,” but when I got on Twitter, it all came rushing back to me. It was as if I could no longer speak like an adult if not given enough characters.

11. The average attention span may be shrinking across the generations but we are the adults, and by using the tools of our children, we hasten its demise. I am constantly tempted to text or Facebook message friends and family members instead of calling them. It is so quick and easy and it appeals to my sense of efficiency. But in doing so, I let go of that very human interaction that binds me to these people, and as an adult, I should know better.

Reading on Your Mind with these Best Books

Lisa writes: December is book month whether buying gifts for others or just looking for something to curl up with over the holidays.  So in the spirit of the season, here are a few titles that we want to share, ones we put in the category of “best books.”  Some are new, some are not.  There is fiction and fact and the only common ground is that we loved them all.


Helen Simonson
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (2012)

I love small stories writ large, tiny worlds carefully constructed by truly gifted writers in which, as the reader, I can transplant myself.  Helen Simonson’s first outing gives us such a world and that rarity of rarities, a true midlife love story.  Major Pettigrew is stuffy old Britain, a man who finds it easier to show his love for his treasured Churchill rifles than his son.  Mrs Ali is the new Britain, worldly, industrious and passionate in her love of family. These two characters, the embodiment of two eras, bring out the very best in each other.  Simonson’s sense of humor  emerges in a very funny undercurrent as we see her American characters through very British eyes.  As an American who long lived in England, I did not know whether to blush or apologize. This is a book without artifice.  If you are tired of reading books of contrived youthful passion and instead want a tale of real adult love, Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali will not let you down.


Laine Moriarty

What Alice Forgot (2011)

This is a beach book, in the very best page-turning sense of the word, for reading even when there is no beach. Ever wondered what would happen if you could rewind the tape on your life and figure out where things went wrong? Ever wonder about friendships lost or marriages heading down the wrong path? Liane Moriarty’s Alice has settled into middle age.  She is tough on her kids and at the end of her rope with her husband.  And then, in that otherwise contrived twist that in fiction we readily accept, she hits her head and the rewind button. Alice is 39 but thinks she is 29 and is forced to look at the decisions she has made over that eventful decade.  For anyone who has ever wanted a do over, or just greater clarity for how life turned out like it did, this is your fantasy.


Sally Koslow

Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty-Nest (2012)

We featured Sally Koslow here because we love her and love her writing.  Mary Dell had the privilege of taking some of Sally’s superb writing courses (she works one on one in person and remotely if anyone wants to walk in Mary Dell’s shoes) and then later acting as an author’s assistant on this wonderful volume.  If you find that you have raised “adultescents,” young people seemingly caught in that limbo between adulthood and adolescence or fear that is who you are in the process of raising, Sally’s tale is for you.  She brings the hard nosed research of a journalist and the warm heart of a mother to her analysis of why our kids can’t/won’t grow up and what we should do about it. Sally is not afraid to pull punches with a generation of parents who have overindulged their offspring leaving them unable to move forward.  She gives us a verbal slap on the wrist with my favorite line directed at her fellow baby boomer parents, “Step away from the kid.”


Roger Rosenblatt

Making Toast (2008)

Roger Rosenblatt, writing professor, journalist, playwright and author of 14 titles, knows his way around a sentence and a story.  But this is his story, the story of the aftermath of the tragic loss of his daughter, a young mother and a pediatrician. While the sadness of that event never lifts, the story of how he and his wife step into their daughter’s household and help their grieving son- in-law and grandchildren is a tale of family love that will never leave you. In this short memoir Rosenblatt studies his own grief, belief in God, and bubbling anger. He returns to being a full time parent when he thought his parenting days were over.  If you love a wonderful memoir, there can be no better tale than this, but if you love exceptional writing, this is the art at its very best.  In his follow up book, Kayak Morning: Reflections on Love, Grief and Small Boats, Rosenblatt writes, “When you love someone, every moment is shadowed by the fear of loss, and when the loss occurs you feel more love than ever.” Making Toast is very much a love story of a man towards the daughter and family he holds so dear.


Will Schwalbe

The End of Your Life Book Club (2012)

Another family memoir, also beautifully written, but this time roles are reversed.  Will Schwalbe, publishing editor and food blogger, tells the story of his mother, the former director of Admissions at Harvard and a tireless advocate for refugees in far flung locales, and her battle with pancreatic cancer. Mother and son, lovers of literature both, meet for her chemo treatments and in the long hours of hospital waiting begin their own book club.  This is a world class reading list nestled inside the tale of what two avid readers learned about life and death from their love of books.  Spoiler alert: one of the reasons that I loved this heartfelt tale is that mother and son discuss three of my all time favorite books. Once the literary pair mentioned Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety (1987) Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead (2004) and John O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra (1934) they had me.   If you love reading then you cannot help but love an author who writes, “Reading isn’t the opposite of doing, it’s the opposite of dying.”


Lee Woodruff

Those We Love Most (2012)

If this title had not been written by Lee Woodruff, fellow Westchester-ite and well known philanthropist, journalist and advocate, I would not have touched it.  In this tale of family love and healing is the one topic I find almost impossible to read about, the death of a child. But Woodruff is determined that her book should not be seen as a “sad” book but rather the story of how families cause each other pain, endure grief, and grow from the experience and in this, she succeeds.  Her characters are like us, good people, flawed in their love for each other, all the while struggling to be better.  To my ear, she tells the story of midlife marriage, with its deep love and understanding and its tug of war of expectations and hopes in perfect pitch. Through her characters we see the entire arc of marriage and how different generations have lived through  the gleeful early days onto a midlife lull with its threat of infidelity and finally, hopefully, true love and understanding.


Please add to our list and tell us your favorite books below.

Books we love

Spinning Class – Exercise for the “Lazy”

Mary Dell writes: In the realm of athletics I am a dud, both coordination and motivation-challenged. When I attended BlogHer’12 this summer and heard Katie Couric describe herself as “lazy” (regarding exercise) yet willing to ride a stationary bike in a spinning class, I began to wonder if this might be a good workout for me since I’m a little lazy, too.

spinning class, soul cycle, katie couric, BlogHer

As if the gym gods were sending me a message, I picked up More magazine’s September issue and found an article on spinning inside. I read about SoulCycle, a small but growing chain of spinning studios that happen to be Katie’s choice.   [Read more…]

In Gratitude: Thoughts from a College Graduation

Gabby, a Grown and Flown friend, writes: Returning last week from our oldest daughter’s college graduation, I feel somehow aligned with those graduates, as I am a parent moving from one major life phase to another. During the very joyful weekend, my husband, more literal and fiscally oriented than me, kept repeating  “one down, two to go” referring to our younger two children. Meanwhile,  I tried to silence my more sentimental thoughts for fear of getting weepy, or sounding cliché and down-right old.


Graduation day, college graduate, cap and gown

It doesn’t  feel like yesterday that I brought this child into the world. Remembering those early days of motherhood seems more like walking around a neighborhood I lived in long ago — quite familiar, yet vaguely dream-like, with some of the important details completely elusive.  On the other hand, it actually does feel as if I just dropped off my daughter as a college freshman.

While shockingly mature and transformed today, she was then an anxious and already-homesick girl. Mixed emotions aside, throughout the college graduation weekend I experienced an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the support my daughter and I have received along the way.   Much of it came in the form of likely candidates such as family and friends; other people, though, crossed our paths for just a moment in time. There are unnamed people who I hardly knew or were completely behind the scenes.  Lastly, there are those forces of the universe that are hard to name, but I will try.

Much like a commencement address, here is my top ten list of the people and support systems to whom I wish to express my deep gratitude:

1. Teachers, educational professionals and staff

As I watched the procession of robed academicians, whom I had never met, I thought about all the teachers who I knew well: that first nursery school teacher who lured my shy child out of her shell, the English teacher who introduced her to her favorite Hawthorne novel, the middle school learning center director who taught her to use color-coded note cards (a system she used in high school and college) and the high school math teacher who sat on the sidelines, cheering at her games.  Since her high school graduation, there were advisors, professors, mentors, health center professionals, cafeteria, maintenance and security folk who kept her safe, healthy and on track, but I will never meet them.

2. Generations of good parenting

Perhaps they might not measure up to the latest parenting trends, but our two long lines of loving parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles have provided my husband and me and, in turn, our children, with wonderful examples of family devotion. We have always had a sense of being loved beyond the boundaries and limitations of our nuclear family.  We did not need to look far to find role models to teach us about commitment, working hard, contributing to society, and caring for others.

3. My husband and our partnership

His steadiness coupled with my emotional intensity provided balance and allowed us to navigate parenting, often through trial and error.  He was the no-nonsense disciplinarian and I was the listening, coaxing, advocating mom.  My kids began many conversations with “Don’t tell Dad but….” What they really meant was that they had absorbed his high standards and the lesson that actions have consequences….all while downloading on me.  Other mantras he and I adopted were: divide and conquer, find your own parenting style,  there is more than one way to change a diaper, and communicate, disciple, and hug your children.

4. My biological sisters

They have always been there when the parenting was fun but also when it wasn’t.  They were the ones who were on my side worrying about ME. When parenting took its toll, our code to indicate we needed encouragement was. …. “feeling like a dry husk.”

5. My peer mom girlfriends

Thank goodness for those friends who shared in endless strategy sessions covering the latest, usually mundane, often neurotic, but sometimes substantive issues …..from pacifiers to life and death discussions such as teenage drinking and driving. I’d venture to guess that some of these lifelong friends can still join me in singing “The Wheels on the Bus!”

6. My girlfriends with “tongue in cheek”

Some made me laugh when I was feeling low, others taught me to smile at the absurdities of being a mom or just laugh at myself and a few, wisely, taught me to use humor as a way to communicate some very important messages to my children.  I used this line from a friend with my own son as he was leaving for a dance:  “If you throw up on your father’s’ suit, you will have to buy him a European hand-tailored one.”

7. Those mothers, and friends, who were five or even ten steps ahead of me

Somehow my eldest managed to make good friends with girls who were often the youngest in their families and I was able to glom onto their mothers for some advice about what to expect, what was just a stage, when to give in and panic.  Especially important were the rules they conveyed to me so that we parents we could create a united front. Later, one friend showed me that when giving advice to kids approaching adulthood, less is more and often just listening and asking questions does the trick.

8. My pediatrician

After a few years of rotating through a big medical group (all three children were plagued with allergies, asthma and ear infections,) I found a female solo practitioner who was a mom herself.  Even though we joked about how I should qualify for her “frequent flyer points,” she once turned to me after I apologized for visiting yet again and said “You have never brought your children in when they didn’t need a doctor.”  Bless her!

9. The stacks and speakers

My favorite outing with my little ones, hands down, was going to the public library. There is nothing more satisfying than watching your four-year old recite Madeline, cover to cover, by heart.  Much to their dismay, I also loved reviewing and discussing my children’s summer required reading lists, offering thoughts that I extrapolated and found useful in my life.  But it worked and my son now inquires about my book club’s reading list.  We even discuss what I am reading in the context of his college courses.  And of course I am indebted to the parenting books I read (some good, some not) and solid advice from professional talks and PTA presentations.

10. The Unknown

This is my catch-all category for the mysteries of life. This certainly does apply to the God to whom I prayed, giving thanks for my children and seeking solace when I was fretfully worried. By the time my oldest two were in college,  I had learned  to “turn my worries over” and fall back asleep. I also include those inexplicable and perfectly timed, quiet, kind gestures from an acquaintance or stranger who I believe was sent our way.  Discouraged after a series of a sleepless nights and lists of incomplete tasks, I would resort to a walk with my children in the double stroller.   It never failed that someone would comment on how beautiful they were, and my entire outlook for the day would be changed. There were those unidentified moms with sympathetic smiles and comments who got me through a public temper tantrum or a kindly shop assistant who helped me with a meltdown of an adolescent girl in a dressing room.  Once stranded for three hours on a runway with my eighteen month old son sitting in my lap, the man next to us (father of four) fed my son his entire dinner to keep him happy.  Recently, I visited a park that had a plaque honoring an unnamed gentleman who came on his own accord, almost every day,  to clean up the park for others.  I wish I had a plaque for all the unknowns in my life.

In every commencement address, there is both a reflection and a call to action urging the graduates to venture bravely into the world.  Last month, during a week-long school holiday, I volunteered to make phone calls for an upcoming event.  During those calls, I commiserated, reassured and encouraged quite a few overwhelmed moms with little children at their heels. It was then that I considered what I could do to share something of what I had the good fortune to learn along the way.

I hope that you will brainstorm with me on how to do this…..”in gratitude.”   Have to go now…. I need to open the door for a mom with a stroller.

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Please Accept My Apology

Kara Gebhart Uhl, who blogs at Pleiades Bee, published a great piece a couple of weeks ago that resonated with thousands of readers. She issued an open apology to all parents she had judged so harshly during her child-free years.  I, like many of the 47,000 others who shared her post, had the proverbial been there, done that moment.  But as I hover at the mid-century mark of life I, too, feel the need to issue my apology to all women who crossed my path for the past five decades and in the quietest, never to be uttered part of my brain I thought, I would never dress like that, act like that, eat like that or treat my kids like that and, here is the kicker, if I were her age. Well here I am, officially her age, and now it all looks, well, so completely different.

please accept my apology, i apologize, non-judgmental, i am sorry

So my apologies. [Read more…]