Social media is everywhere: By phone, laptop, tablet, desktop or even a robot, like it or not, it’s how people communicate today. The laws dictating social propriety have been overturned. I’ve seen email RSVPs, condolence texts, wedding evites and thank-you notes on Facebook. Thankfully, tweeting during a funeral apparently is frowned upon.
People of a certain age—for the sake of argument, let’s say 40—use social media with some level of formality. We post vacation photos or tweet birth announcements; or text to confirm a meeting time or location. Our electronic communication is, to some degree, restrained. For those a bit younger, however, that most certainly is not the case. Cranky, Whiny and Punch are 15, 14 and 12; and they have forged entire relationships in the virtual world. The slightest whimsy, a passing thought, a momentary flash is instantly communicated. Entire conversations, arguments and debates are conducted, which brings me to my point: There’s quite a bit of information out there…floating around.
My children have unlimited texting. As an example, take Cranky (please). Let’s say she has 10 friends she texts regularly. By regularly, let’s say that each friend sends and receives roughly 100 texts per hour. Multiply that by 10 friends, add the additional acquaintances, subtract hours spent sleeping, factor in her siblings, and you come up with…infinity—infinity texts.
Now, you may think this is all just a strange—even coincidental—byproduct of this brave, new world, but I have my suspicions. The other day, for example, I was glancing down at Cranky’s phone, which—inexplicably—was unlocked. Normally, the thing is more protected than a missile silo at NORAD. I’m surprised it doesn’t take two of them turning a key at the same time to access their info, but I digress. I glanced down at the thing (which, incidentally, looks like somebody has been using it to send croquet balls out of play), and a text stream is there, in front of me. Could I read it? Should I read it? Would it be an invasion of her…Sorry, I almost got that down before I doubled over laughing.
I scrolled through the fairly benign ‘conversation.’ Have you eaten? No. You? No. Let’s go to Gurney’s. OK. I’m getting a turkey sandwich. OK. Bring your racquet. OK. (Honestly, some of these interchanges could replace water torture.) Anyway, I was just about to come upon something good, I was sure of it, when I felt a looming presence. Cranky stood in the doorway with crossed arms and arched brow. Oops. Busted. When I explained that the phone had chirped and my natural curiosity had gotten the better of me, she replied in a way that made my jaw drop: Be my guest.
I couldn’t believe it. What could have prompted this revelatory surge? A number of possibilities crossed my mind: Maybe she needs help with a bully. Perhaps she has a stalker. Or, she’s probably just a wholesome, clean-cut kid with nothing to hide—that’s probably it. That’s when I realized it, as I glanced at the mountain of information held in that tiny phone. There were thousands and thousands of text streams, most of which were on par with the turkey sandwich exchange. If I had any hope of happening upon a juicy tidbit, I would need weeks—months—to troll. I felt like a prosecutor during document discovery in a fraud case against an investment bank. I handed the phone back defeated, and she smiled, basking in the fact that her secrets were securely hidden in plain sight. Well, the rules may have changed but the game remains the same: kids squirreling, parents snooping, and—if memory serves—kids may lose an occasional battle, but they almost always win the war.