When I was in middle school and junior high, I can remember how tough it sometimes was to feel positive about myself. At times it felt like a struggle to make sure that I was doing, wearing, and saying the right things just to be liked by my friends. It took me many years to realize that these things were not what I should be basing my self-esteem on.
I was reminded of this time in my life when my son asked me to please take a picture of him at his grandmothers’ birthday party off on my Facebook. He even went as far as to ask that I not put any pictures of him on my page without asking him first.
I was initially completely taken aback by this request, and I explained to him that since there were family members who couldn’t make it to the party, the pictures were there to see and feel like they were still included. My son then explained to me that he did not like the way he looked in the picture and that he did not want his friends to see him. He discussed his concern that his friends would make fun of him.
I must admit that I had not been thinking about any of that when I posted the picture, but maybe I should have.
The more I thought about it, I realized that he was right. I should check with him before posting photos of him. That seemed fair.
I also realized from this interaction that my son’s way of building his self-esteem has been almost solely online. I recall some elaborate setups that he has put together to get a perfect picture of his various activities. I realized that he judges his self-worth from likes, comments, and interactions. I was also reminded of the time that he refused to participate in zoom calls with his camera on due to having a pimple.
I realized that there were some important things that I needed to tell my son, things that I wish someone had told me back in my teenage years. I explained to him that even though his social media likes and comments seem like a competition, it is not!! I talked to him about how the likes could just mean that more people were online when it was posted. I spoke to him about how a special media post is only what people want others to see of their lives and that it doesn’t necessarily represent who they are or how many friends they have! I talked to my son about how it is essential to make a few good friendships with people versus competing for likes on social media.
I am not sure if any of this stuck for my son or just blow it off as another mom’s talk. I know that I will be reminding him more often of how great he is, hoping that if something upsets him or goes wrong on social media, he has that to fall back on.
Great resource to read
An parent article I wrote imagining that there was no pandemic. It’s Saturday night, your teens are not home, and you are in bed. As the night progresses, you worry more and more—about the school, about their friends, and especially about whether they’ll get home safely.