Parenting in a World of Trophy Networks
I was at my first coaches meeting for my little girls soccer league and they asked the question “who is in favor of trophies for the kids at the end of the season?”
They then went on to be sure that everyone knew both sides of the debate: those who thought trophies built confidence versus those who thought the “trophies-for-all” mentality is the downfall of American society.
After that meeting, my good friend Anthony and I were chatting about the value (or lack of value) of social networks for parent-aged people. We chuckled about how the daily feeds in each of our Facebook accounts seemed to be a collection of tiny 140 character trophies: trophies for my meal, trophies for my sunset, trophies for my perfectly-timed news item, trophies for my perfectly-ironic culture critique, etc.
Anymore, it all seems to be broadcast messages looking for validation and alignment. Don’t get me wrong. I did it big time. When our first child was born, I loved sharing my trophies: her painted room, first bedroom set, her first walk, her first big belly laugh. Everything was a moment I wanted to share with everyone who would look. But as they get older, the moments either become more intimate to a tightening family or it seems showy to keep broadcasting tiny moments as major milestones.
While each and every moment our children share with us is a gift, the more our family develops, the more we realize it’s not for everyone. A lot of parents I know are starting to reach their own version of this conclusion. Said another way, it seems that (according to the evidence of my Facebook feed) parents of young families are pulling back from the worlds largest social network in favor of more intimate sharing services.
Parents I’ve talked to are not only getting less interested in publishing tiny trophies, they are getting tired of seeing them — although less so from the people nearby.
Why the distinction between local and elsewhere? Because the information is useful in current and local relationships. The in-between content helps people keep up on the events in the lives if the people they interact with more frequently. For those who engage in business activities, the social notes provide a backdrop of authenticity to develop the business relationship. For people who engage socially, it can provide a set of updates between visits that help relationships grow by engaging in topics far beyond the content of these feeds — something that would be harder to do if get togethers were still limited to life updates.
The point is that technology to exchange information efficiently between social groups has proven to be valuable. But it is time for an evolution in thinking about what these networks are and how to use them. There are growing distinctions in proximity and life-stage that are changing the usage patterns of our digital society. We’re seeing it in the 10M millennials who left Facebook in the past two years and we’ll see it again and again as sub-groups of this massive social network gain a stronger sense of identity.
For families, it is time to specialize and focus the power of social networks on the needs of the neighborhood. It’s time to put down the trophy and treat the social network like a business and relationship development tool to help and get help. From there, meaningful sharing can resume.