Tag Archive | social media

Beware contracting comparison-itus

What a indispensable tool social media has become. How lonely and isolated we would have felt during the Lockdowns, if we hadn’t been able to connect in this way. It offers us comfort and support, communication and connectivity, inspiration and help when we need it, the facility to share and exchange ideas. To feel less lonely. And of course to learn and educate.

It also provides the opportunity to show off, seek endorsement, criticise and slang off others, bully and torment, and become addicted to unfortunately. Plus the danger of perpetuating a disease as harmful as Covid; Comparisonitus!

Social media wasn’t a thing when we very first began home educating. In fact there was hardly any opportunity to see what others were doing. Support and communication with other home educators came through joining one of the support groups like Education Otherwise and then it was a question of cold calling someone listed in the organisation and finding local meet ups.

What a long way we’ve come since then and what a plethora of amazing supportive forums, groups, resources and facilities there is now to dip into and connect with.

But it needs managing. Because, as with all communities, there is a risk. The risk of comparing yourself to others and feeling like you’re not good enough.

You have to remember that sometimes a rosy cameo of perfection, which is how photos and shares on social media sometimes appear, can mask the reality of day to day grind and the tricky bits everyone always goes through. No one will be doing it perfectly whatever images on social media show. Whatever anyone else would have you believe.

In fact I have also been accused of it; of writing about home education so positively it gives the impression of never having got it wrong. I did (as illustrated in my books). And I’m truly sorry if anyone felt inadequate as a result of reading anything I’ve written. But I do want to be encouraging too. It’s hard to find the balance sometimes. Finding your balance through social media in relation to your home education is just as important.

Nothing is ever as perfect as it seems – a quiet studious moment among the majority of others not so!

Another thing to remember is that many Apps are designed to be addictive. And it can become an addictive habit to be constantly seeking endorsement about what you’re doing, notching up Likes and approvals. Beware that’s not what you’re using social media for in relation to your home educating.

Outside of the home school community there’s also the risk of comparisonitus with schools and their approaches. School approaches to education are designed not with the child’s welfare in mind but with results in mind. Schools have to produce measurable outcomes. And in the pursuit of them real learning and growth and development of the individual can be lost, often along with their potential. Not to mention their health and mental wellbeing.

Forget what schools are doing. forget what ‘results’ other kids and parents are bragging about, or tests they’re being put through as if that was a valuable part of their schooling. Don’t doubt yourself because of other kids ‘going back’ to the school regime and fitting in with that norm. Get on with educating your way.

Look and learn from others – that’s important. Share and support one another. But keep it all within the perspective of the fact that no one is doing it best, better, or any more perfectly than you are. This will help immunise you from comparisonitus. Check you’re not addicted to constantly seeking approval. Be bold and confident about this amazing thing you’re doing and hold your nerve – true to what you’re doing it for. Keep real.

I’m always saying, yet still finding it needs saying again; we’re all different. No one will be home educating like you do, no child will be like yours, learn like yours, or other parent do it the way you parent. You do not need to compare yourself with anyone else. You only need to keep your integrity with what you think is right for you in your circumstances, keep researching and connecting, keep your eye on what’s working and what’s not, keep flexible and open minded.

This is the way to keep yourself well – well away from comparisonitus. You need that dis-ease about as much as you need Covid!

Take care!

You cannot photograph sensations

I’ve enjoyed Instagramming my regular walks – wanting to share a bit of the countryside with you all.

The danger of Instagram though, and other social media sites, is that you can be so busy photographing the moment, you’re not actually engaging with it. More than likely you’re engaging with the opportunity to show it off to others. In fact, holding your phone up almost creates a barrier – certainly a psychological one – between you and the sensation of mindfully enjoying.

I noticed this particularly on an autumn walk a month or so ago. I was so busy sharing the experience on my phone, and looking at the photos to see if they were good enough, I’d disengaged from the experience itself. Not just the sight of nature laid sweetly before my eyes, but all the other sensations of being there as well; a last bit of Lark song of the season, the smell of the damp foliage, the shine of the dew and the soft touch of the gentle breeze.

Instead of mindfully being there, I was missing it all. I put the phone away.

This is why I hardly took any photos at my daughter’s wedding. (See recent post here) There were several others snapping away, some who’d been particularly engaged to do so. There would be plenty of photographic memories, I could appropriate!

But you can’t photograph sensations. And it was the sensations of the day I wanted to bring away with me.

And it’s made me wonder, as I see so many photos of your delightful children and the activities they’re doing splashed across social media, whether some parents are so busy photographing their kids for posting on sites they’re actually missing out on the sensations of being there with them.

One day you won’t be! They’ll have flown.

A grainy one from the pre-digital days, when the odd personal photos were more treasured for being fewer, and we were consequently more engaged with the moment!

A single photo memory is nice to have, I agree. But I suspect our phones have pushed us beyond that, beyond even the sensation of wanting to share, towards an addiction of wanting approval, likes and endorsement. These gadgets and platforms are designed to be addictive.

Just a thought.

So this is a call for you to enjoy your kids while they’re there with you. Masses of pics are no substitute for living the moment, of being with them, engaged. The depth of those feelings cannot be reproduced in an other medium. Only that which you have experienced within.

Put your phone down and live your life as a parent for the experience at the time, not for the reproduction of it.

Hurtful and potentially damaging

I sit in a cafe where no one is talking. Everyone has their head down. Do they all hate each other? Are they depressed?

No – they’re staring at their phones.

Phones distract from real social interaction study shows; click the pic for the article

A child pipes up in a train carriage with a reasonable question for his mum about their journey. At first she ignores him and continues to stare blankly at her phone. So does everyone else in the carriage. He asks again, a little louder. So she yanks her earphones out her ears with a vicious glare and screams at him to leave her alone – she’s already told him – will he shut up – and various other hurtful remarks. Then she returns to watching her screen. He has no such entertainment and has to be content with nothing. And learn nothing about interaction but a lot about how it’s okay to ignore one another if you’ve got a phone in your hand. For that’s what most folks are doing.

We recognise additions to drugs and alcohol but we’re soon going to have to acknowledge addictions to technology which some people use compulsively. Not to mention to excuse inappropriate behaviour.

Like alcohol changes behaviour and severe alcoholism can ruin relationships I fear that compulsive checking of notifications and absorption in social media or gaming could be sending us the same way. We may have more facilities than ever with which to communicate but is this diminishing our skills to do so in warm humane ways, face to face? Diminishing interactions which communicate feelings and meanings more accurately than a digital emoji can. It’s certainly in danger of ruining our parenting and trashing the responsibility we have of teaching kids how to be social.

People would once have chit-chatted to strangers at the next table, on the next seat or in the bus queue. Now we’re all heads down creating isolation and distance. We’re learning how to ignore the person next to us in the room – familiar or stranger – by engaging with others miles away, or by gaming, which can overtake the desire to connect with anyone at all.

It’s easier not to. Our phones give us a chance to disengage and close ourselves in a digital bubble, avoiding the slight social difficulty of face to face, eye to eye.

The trouble is, apart from the fact that it is deskilling the youngsters – well and the oldsters too who are supposed to be setting an example – disengagement leads to desensitisation. Desensitisation makes it easier not to care. When you care less you can commit offenses and crimes against others more easily, you can bully more easily, you can disassociate the responsibility we all have to care for one another and maybe be polite to one another which makes a day go round more pleasantly than screaming.

I don’t know what preceded the incident on the train when mum sounded off loud enough for the whole carriage to hear. I acknowledge we’re all driven to less than acceptable behaviour with our kids on occasion, although she kept it up all journey. But I do know that kid did not deserve to be spoken to like that – no one does. Or be ignored for the rest of the hour’s journey without anything to do. He needed his own phone! Better still, he needed someone to talk to.

We all do. However updated we all are, and connected as we need to be to modern communications, it is nothing more than hurtful to be in the company of someone who clearly seems to prefer to communicate with someone else. It hurts us all; child or adult.

And it’s something we perhaps need to give serious thought to as we parent and prepare our kids for the wider world. Phones are absolutely brilliant. But we have to consider and take charge of them and their place in society, not have them in charge of us. Or replace the time given to the warm loving interactions we all inherently need.

Disconnected!

We’ve been another week without an internet connection. I’ve had to decamp to a friend’s house to use hers. For the other problem with rural living is poor mobile signal – not enough for me to go online on my phone at home.

Such are the disadvantages of living in remote places. But we’re used to it!

It has its upside. It means that without the seduction of social media, emails and messaging I focus more intently on new writing rather than allowing my time to be eaten away by responding to notifications. It’s easy for that to be an excuse for not getting the real work done. I admit I can be a bit dilatory at managing that!

The absence of the internet also reminds me to practice skills that are independent of it, to be more resourceful, to re-visit other activities, perhaps less sedentary, that do not depend on that connection. And it’s a good reminder that we need variety in our daily lives to bring a healthy balance and outlook, to help us maintain other skills and interests, practical and physical as well as social, to make us more rounded people.

Exactly the same for our children. They need this variety too; involvement in an assortment of skills as well as internet ones, most particularly the physical, practical and personal, to make them healthy, rounded, skills-rich adults.

I’ve enjoyed watching some of the ‘Back in time…’ programmes that have taken families back to life in earlier times, mostly before internet and telly. And some of the comments the youngsters on the programme have made suggest that they have enjoyed living without their phones, internet and telly at times because it has made them focus on each other. Conversation has become a pastime for example, or communicating over board games. Another remarked they’ve become closer as a family.

Now, I acknowledge that I was as grateful as anyone to distract a restless child with some screen based pursuits.

But I’m now aware that this has become such an overused activity that children are lacking in many of the skills they would have naturally gained from connected family time. Some cannot converse adequately, use language effectively, interact with peers appropriately and are starved of the nurture family closeness brings because of long isolate hours entertained by screens, disconnected from real people. Even communal meal times have been overturned by TV dinners.

I enjoy a TV dinner, but not all the time.

What I need, and what children need even more as their on going development is more important, is a rich diversity of experiences. They need opportunities to try a range of different activities, explore potential interests, chances to develop a variety of skills, physical, practical and personal for their well being, resourcefulness and healthy maturity.

A balance of life’s activities in other words. Not a life that’s dependent on one.

Nothing like a week with disconnection to make me check whether my time usage was balanced.

If this extreme weather continues I suspect I might be in for another one!

Breaking down paper barriers

colouring book and hair dye 009 It’s weird – I have a love hate relationships with colouring books!

I was reminded of this abnormal fetish of mine by an art and culture magazine the girls had (Frankie) because it had some colouring in for grown-ups drawn by artists.

You wouldn’t think anything so innocuous would stir me up, but then I was always a bit averse to doing what I was expected to do – like colour in between the lines. I can’t even write on lined paper now because the inhibition of it irritates me so!

I used to love colouring books as a kid. There’s just something so desirable about them isn’t there? But my rather artisan parents frowned on them by saying I ought to be making my own pictures rather than colouring in other people’s so my enthusiasm waned a bit. Can’t parental principles be irksome? I tried hard to be careful with mine.

And my kids did have colouring books – they liked them too. And they have a value in helping children to practise specific skills (e.g. hand-eye co-ordination and manipulation of tools needed for writing) and inspire ideas of their own. Like with all things in life there is a value to using structure when needed…as long as you have a go at the alternatives too.

For my folks did have a point in suggesting that we break out of those structured boundaries at other times. And it helps for our children to know that especially when their lives are so controlled all the time.

The colouring books are just my example of how conditioned we are to always stay within pre-set boundaries, forgetting that we can actually do differently when it serves us better. We do not always have to stay within the limits, structures, rules and routines that other people adhere to.

Other people do so because it serves them well. Or they’ve never thought about it or discovered there are options! But sometimes we go on and on in life sticking to ideas or rules or institutions simply out of habit or compliance not realising they don’t always serve us well as individuals,

Readers of this blog will know that our family decided to give up on the institution of school because it wasn’t serving our kids well and home educated. That’s one example of an alternative. But there are less dramatic alternatives we can choose every day if we just remember this simple idea; we don’t have to always stay between the lines – whether that’s in colouring books, or what’s trending on Facebook, or in life!

With the influence of social media we’ll need to be particularly vigilant in making personal decisions about how we want to lead our lives and the ideas we really believe in.

I have a super quote to remind me of this: When a man has once broken through the paper walls of everyday circumstance, those unsubstantial walls that hold so many of us securely prisoned from the cradle to the grave, he has made a discovery. If the world does not please you, you can change it. (From ‘The History of Mr. Polly’ by H.G Wells)

Whatever you’re doing today, don’t let any ‘paper walls’ hold you back.

A woman with connections…

A real live world to enjoy!

A real live world to enjoy!

I’m a woman with connections now. It’s been nearly two weeks with no phone or Internet. I was becoming used to the ‘old ways’ of being isolated in the Wilds and not having to respond to anyone. Add the snow into the equation and only an intermittent mobile signal and life began to feel quite pleasantly retro!

Don’t get me wrong – I do like having all your lovely messages to respond to – it’s totally heart-warming. Social media is like a comfort blanket when you’re feeling a bit down and like no one gives a damn – props you up when you’ve just had sharp words from a loved one or the kids.

But there have been advantages being disconnected. It’s made me realise something often forgotten; you need to be aware of what’s happening in your life. If you’re not aware of it you can’t manage it. If you’re not managing it then it’s managing you. And if that’s the case then it’s easy to feel a victim of life rather than in charge of it. (A bit like schooling really!)

I’ve read on more than one blog how people sometimes feel controlled by Social Media not the other way round. It has certainly controlled quite a good deal of my time without me being aware of it. Without it I’ve achieved a lot more. I’ve been much more creative. We’ve had more conversation. I’ve felt more fulfilled somehow, using the offline time productively engaged in other things. Enough to make sure that I manage it better now we’re back on.

It’s also made me realise that parents have to mange it effectively for their kids’ sake. There has to be a proper BALANCE between using the Net and other activities. From what I hear in some households it’s out of balance. Both parents and children are so engaged with people on-line they forget to engage with the loved ones that are actually in the room. They’re so virtual they forget a physical world exists and to go out in it.

There’s more than one way to feel disconnected. An irreplaceable resource it may be, but the Net can have a negative effect on important relationships if it’s out of balance with the other ways you connect; real ways. Conversational ways. Eye-contact ways. Touching and holding.

Will we lose the skills to connect in those ways, do you think, as we addictively suck at our online comforter where people are removed enough for us to avoid the emotional difficulties of more immediate contact?

Balancing online time and real interaction time is important. Balancing online activities with others. How you manage it will teach your children how to manage it, teach them what’s appropriate. Teach them that there are other important things in life to be engaged in than being popular on Facebook and how often you Blog or Tweet.

A real live conversation for one. And playing in the snow!