People tend to think of social media as a young person’s game. “Those durn kids with their Facespace and Tweeter!” you’ve heard your grandma grumble, probably after getting out of her horse-drawn buggy. It isn’t just grandparents who take issue with social media—adults in general seem to be a bit wary about seeing their kids so invested in virtual reality. Though it’s true that sites like Facebook tend to bring out narcissistic, exhibitionist tendencies in their users, social media has a lot of potential for good. In fact, social media can be really awesome for the whole family—including grandma. Here’s why.
Long Distance Connection
Since humans have existed, we’ve generally stuck together in our little clans, close to family and friends. Modern society, however, operates in direct opposition to this way of life; with our emphasis on individualism and independence, we’re expected to move away from home and strike out on our own. While this new way of life does have its upsides (if you’re not particularly fond of your family or hometown, you can easily skedaddle on out of there), it goes against our deeply engrained evolutionary social needs. Social media can partially remedy the heartsickness of a family spread all around the country, or even the world. Grandma can feel like she’s part of your life, even if she’s thousands of miles away.
Kill Multiple (Virtual) Birds With One Stone
In the past, if you wanted to share a photo or video with someone, you’d have to send it via snail mail. Even with email, you have to go through your contact list and find all the relatives you want to share your memories with—and heaven forbid you forget someone. These days, one click of the button and you can show everyone you’ve ever known photos of your latest vacation, graduation, or wedding. You can even share old family photos that you know your extended family would love to see. Nobody feels left out, and everybody gets the chance to comment on your posts, which has the potential to create a dialogue between family members—a dialogue that wouldn’t have happened without the glories of social media.
Facilitating Family Fun
Just as social media can make family feel closer in the realm of virtual reality, it can facilitate the planning of get-togethers in the physical world. Family reunions are notoriously difficult to plan, as potential attendees can number in the hundreds. Social media provides an easy way to get everybody on the same page; simply create an event or group, then invite all (desired) family members. Everybody can post their input and ideas, which can help the group reach a consensus that makes everyone happy. It’s also an easy way to communicate with everyone in case there’s some sort of emergency or change in plans.
Of course, there are also many perils involved in family use of social media. You probably want to change your privacy settings so that Great Aunt Lily can’t see the documentation of your drunken nights of debauchery, and political or controversial postings have the potential to start a family feud. But as you can see, much of the time the potential for good can outweigh the bad, and as long as you’re careful about it, social media can be a great thing for families. That pretty much holds true for the entire Internet; whether you’re using Facebook or Ebay or some other e-commerce platform, exercising caution is key to having a happy and productive online experience. With that said, go ahead and invite Grandma to Facebook!
Madeline Marshall grew up in a small town in Northern California and now loves keeping in touch with her family through all forms of social media.