The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: social media

messA toddler goes running through the room, a kindergartner close behind, if not passing her from room to room. Calls to cut it out fall upon tiny, deaf ears. An infant now awake and needing to be held. Laundry piling, baths to be given, meals to be made and eaten. Work. The baby’s crying again. Bills. Holidays. Yard work. The kindergartner just got his toddler sister upset and she’s screaming. Transportation. School. Groceries. Now it’s the other way around and the kindergartner is crying.

Life…can be and has been a bit of a challenge as of late. At times, it’s downright overwhelming.

We’re adjusting to life from two to three, doing so on very little sleep, and just trying to keep the household functioning on even the most basic level. What used to be divide and conquer is now one handles the baby while the other manages the two eldest. Or, in some scenarios, all three if one is not available (I’m thinking of a recent nighttime appointment I had where Meg was left with all three kids on her own).

Why am I telling you this? What purpose does it serve?

It’s because I’m being honest with you. I’m letting you know that life, for all its joyous feelings, of all the warmth of a growing family we wouldn’t change or give up for the world, it, yes, can be a challenge or just plain overwhelming.

I say this honestly because it is easy to get down on oneself when we live amid what often seems like a perfect world, always outside of our own, whomever we are, when we glimpse the lives of others through the lens of social media. Most of what we see is not honesty. Maybe it’s partially true, but it’s cherry-picked. It’s a best-of reel, hand selected to present an image and persona of perfection. But it’s not. They’re just crafted to make you think they are.

walk on the pier

“Family decided on a spontaneous walk together across this pier. Crazy day but wouldn’t trade it for anything.” Wait. Who took this totally candid, not at all planned picture?

We hear a lot about it when it comes to teens, growing up in a digital world that many of us only walked into when we were in college or adults. But these days, between a plethora of social media networks, the same desire for acceptance, for validation, has crossed the age threshold into many adults who litter their online presence with only the moments of perfection. But life isn’t perfect, for anyone. It can be fun. It can be crazy. It can be full of love. But life is also full of flaws, of failures, of tripping up and learning. Life gets messy, but somehow so many feel it a taboo topic to talk about let alone show.

treehouse couple

“No better way to end the day than with a cup of our hand-mulled wine in the treehouse we found time to make in the backyard during naptime out of repurposed wood.”

Instead, people try to gloss over the imperfections of life that shape us for a shiny veneer that looks great from the outside.

So, please, remember that the next time you start doubting yourself, your own life, because of what you see on social media. You’re doing great. And if you don’t need to litter social media with curated images that reflect a life unlike the one you’re living, then you know what? You’re doing even better.

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Some sound advice from Gotham City’s own Dark Knight, from 1963’s Batman #159.

In a world where so many people sadly look to find their self-worth in online likes, followers, and little blue check marks (or lack thereof), I think it’s still pretty relevant.

You tell ’em, Batman.

Bat-advice2

 

It’s actually an incredibly timeless message hidden between some standard 1960s comic silliness (which don’t get me wrong, I love). In the 60s, Batman comics had a penchant for letting trusty butler Alfred let readers in on a series of fictional stories he was writing of what the future might hold for Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson were Bruce to have children.

In this particular story from 1963, Bruce Wayne Junior, at 5 years old, is being teased by his friends for having a pretty unimportant father compared to one of the boys whose father is a professional baseball player.

Bruce Waynes a Great Guy

Young Bruce Jr makes the case for his father being in charge of corporations and doing a lot of charity work, but sadly that’s not the sort of thing to impress the young lads, who continue to tease young Bruce. Feeling hurt and pressured, Bruce blurts out that his dad is really Batman. What he doesn’t realize is that he’s just spoken the truth, something his father overhears while patrolling.

This forces Bruce Wayne Sr to move past the boys,ignoring his son in an effort to maintain his secret identity. And unfortunately, that just makes the teasing of Bruce Jr all the worse. Like any father, it’s hard for Bruce Sr. to take, leading to his admonishment of the boys up above, and telling Bruce Jr that he knows his father very well and that he couldn’t be prouder of the young man he’s becoming.

It’s the kind of moment that resonates so much with me. As someone who left a career in the public eye in exchange for a bit quieter of a life with my family, I have had a back-and-forth struggle with my meaning, my place, and how much of a role what I do career-wise will matter to my son and daughter. What I always come back to, though, is the realization that it doesn’t matter what I’m doing for my job, or who recognizes me, it’s that my children do. That I am around, in their lives enough to make an impact. In the context of the Frank Capra classic, It’s a Wonderful LifeYou don’t have to be Sam Wainwright to matter. You can be a George Bailey and be a success simply by living a good, kind life and helping those around you.

And likewise, it’s not Batman that’s going to have the greatest impact on that young boy’s life. It’s Bruce Wayne. Not a crimefighter, but a father.

Proud Batdad

Say what you will about old comics or a lack of ‘seriousness,’ but this type of stuff is exactly what made me a comic reader and the type of stuff I think young readers, and young children of all ages, need from their heroes.

 


I’ve been feeling pretty nostalgic as of late.

I’m not sure if it’s the changing colors of the Fall leaves here in the Northeast, which always make me think of the many returns ‘back to school’ for almost two decades, or sitting outside the cafe in college with my portable CD player and headphones providing ample musical accompaniment as I’d write. Maybe it’s helping my parents pack up and move out of the house we were a family in from the age of 13 onward. Or maybe it’s watching the only sitcom these days that I tune into each week, The Goldbergs, which washes over me like a wave of reminiscences to my youth in a ‘1980 something’ blur.

Either way, there’s been something about the past. Something about how life used to be. Something that, in the words of Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon on 30 Rock – ‘I want to go to there.’

Watching my son walking talking, counting, and just becoming a little person all his own, with his own ideas, decisions, and views, even at two, has made me think more and more about the world he is going to grow up into. Most of all, I think about just how different that world is from the one I look back so fondly on.

couple-on-phonesWe went to lunch as a family not too long ago and were talking when my wife nudged her head slightly to the table next to us. I glanced over, where I saw a young couple who had come in just before us. They were seated at the table, ready for a meal, like anyone else in a restaurant would be, but instead of talking to each other, both had their heads down, glued to the phones in their hands.

I sighed.

Yeah. I know. I’m already three steps into ‘Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!” territory, but I can’t help but feel a longing for a time that, despite the melodramas that (let’s face it) we created ourselves in our youth, was much simpler. Workplace tasks didn’t include making sure Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, yadda, yadda, yadda, were updated constantly.

A time when asking someone out on a date meant walking up to them and doing so in person or building up the nerve to pick up the phone and hope that a parent didn’t answer first. Now it’s a text, a Facebook message, a tweet. A ‘wanna hang out?’ There is something…lacking in it all.

Yes, yes. I realize that in many ways the Internet and Social Media have opened up the world to so many. Heck, would these thoughts running through my head have anywhere to go other than to my friends over a beer if it wasn’t for the power of the world wide webs?

nice-neighborhoodThere was once a time when the worst you had to worry about when doing something foolish was a friend taking a picture that they’d show your friends. Now, that picture can be seen by the world in a matter of seconds, with no way to take it back.

Bullies may have caused trouble at school or on the bus, but you could go home and take a break from it, regroup, feel you were safe. Today, computers, the internet and phones bring the bullying right there into the living room or bedroom of the child, giving them no break, no moment to gather thoughts – a constant bombardment of assault that would drive even the strongest adult to question their own sanity at times, I’m sure.

Sigh.

And this is the world my little boy is growing up in. How could I possibly be prepared for it?

I was blessed to have a family unit with caring parents and a great younger brother. I went to a high school that was so close-knit (don’t get me wrong. there were issues here and there. there always is with teens.) that when I wax nostalgic about it, my wife has often asked me if I went to school in a time warp or the 1950s.

I was very lucky and I want him to be too.

And yet, I can’t help but be fearful of the changing world we live in when I look back on the carefree days of riding my bike to the little league field, of walking to school or to the public pool, or being able to walk at night in my neighborhood to a friend’s house around the corner or just blocks away without worry for me or my parents.

They were wonderful times and I will treasure them always.

social_mediaWhen I was in college, I wrote a paper about what was then, the ‘height’ of social media in that pre-myspace, pre-friendster, pre-facebook days – AOL Instant Messenger. My theory was that through the use of technology like Instant Messenger, we as a civilization were becoming less human. We were losing our humanity in the way we communicate.

If I had only known what was coming down the pipe in terms of ‘social media’ back then.

But, here we are. All sharing this world – a world made ever smaller by our ability to connect with someone halfway across it in a matter of seconds. Many of us still finding our way.

What kind of people will we be?

Whatever we choose will automatically play a role in who our children choose to be.

I can’t control the world around me and I know that. And that world around me is going to continue to grow with things I’ll never understand and yet, gets smaller by the day as technology grows. How it’s used, how it’s reacted to, that’s all up to the people behind it.

That would be us. And our children. And their children.

I can’t put my son in a bubble or create a world for him without the risks, the fears, and the distractions that come with technology, the internet and social media that have made me look back so much on my own youth as ‘so much simpler.’

But I can make sure the phones are put away at dinner time, or family time, or storytime, or that we make sure we get outside, go for walks, or just enjoy the world that we’ve been given. I can get on the ground and play with toys with him instead of turning on the television.

I can teach him that while there is vast, powerful technology in this world that can either bring us together or rip us apart, it is no match for the imagination of oneself or the true community of family and friends that are found simply reaching out a real hand, not a twitter handle.

I can show him how much this world, this earth, the world around us and everything in it that we walk by each day should be cherished and appreciated, less it fade away and disappear and become nothing more than an image on one of those magic screens.


Maybe you’ve seen the following video making the rounds on the web this week, as Disney recreated the opening theme song to DuckTales using real ducks.

It’s the latest in what I’ve seen as a growing trend by the Big Mouse company in mining the nostalgia of my generation, which grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, watching shows like DuckTales, Darkwing Duck, Tale Spin, and many others in their “Disney Afternoon” lineup, for use in their social media campaigns.

And it works.

The likes, retweets, shares, etc. across social media spread like a wildfire. And Disney knows this. It keeps these brands relevant, and it keeps their social media booming.

A few of many examples of this.

DT example

One post – More than 22,000 comments!

dwd example

350 likes in under ten minutes!

So I ask this, both to the public, and openly to the Walt Disney Company – your constant use of these shows and the time put in to mine our love and nostalgia for them has yielded you not only envious engagement, reach and love on your social media, but it has shown that there is still an audience for these shows. You must see this, otherwise you wouldn’t continue to use them in your social media strategies.

So why is it, seeing the blatant love, affection and craving for these shows, that Disney still has not released these full series on DVD? Darkwing Duck got a few volumes, then stopped without completion of the series. DuckTales the same thing. Tale Spin even less, I believe.

And let’s take it one step further, even down the pipe-dream route.

Because, let’s face it, Disney. There was time and resources that goes into something like re-creating the DuckTales theme song with real ducks so our generation can get a chuckle as we remember a time when these shows were on the air.

That generation, Disney, that grew up watching your shows and obviously still loves them, as your viral campaigns and social media posts show, are now grown-ups, with kids of our own!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to sit down with our OWN kids (a whole new generation of potential fans) and watch the shows that we loved when WE were kids?

Wouldn’t that open the doors to whole new customers, Disney?

Why not finally take advantage of all that popularity and finally release the “Disney Afternoon Classics” (see, I even just branded the line for you) in their entirety on DVD?

And as we’ve seen from shows you make like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or those Mickey Christmas Specials, you’ve got character designs already for Donald, Huey, Dewey and Louie, and even Scrooge, be they traditional or CGI. Why not take advantage of your built-in audience for these shows, which could now encompass multiple generations, and crank out some new shows?

You wouldn’t even need to commit to a full-on new DuckTales Show, or TaleSpin show. Create some half hour format that offers a rotating cast. One week it’s a new DuckTales adventure, the following week it’s Rescue Rangers, another week its Baloo and the gang, another week Darkwing Duck. You can hit every show’s audience with one, diversified effort. A little something for everyone.

Take advantage of the fact that Alan Young, Jim Cummings, Terry McGovern and others of the original voice casts are still with us and send us and our kids on new adventures with Scrooge, Darkwing, Launchpad and the gang.

You’ve put the resources into mining our nostalgia and affection for these shows and characters. Why not put those resources to work on something we’ll really love you for.

It’s a window of opportunity that won’t be open forever, Disney. But it’s one that has a lot of positives if you climb on through.

The Ducks in comic form

The return of the ducks proved a hit in comics in 2011.


© Copyright 2011 CorbisCorporationI’ve been feeling the drain again when it comes to social media.

I’m not quite sure what it is….an overload, perhaps? Whatever it is, I just find myself borderline depressed at times thinking about how much time I spend on some social media platform like Facebook.

Posting updates of what I did today, a great new photo of the family or my son, writing about some fun film or documentary I just unearthed or learned about…then checking back in to see if anyone’s liked or commented on any of those…furiously going back when I get that little notification in the corner only to find it’s just someone else responding or commenting to something I’ve commented on.

It becomes a downright addiction, doesn’t it?

I take a step back and say to myself ‘what the heck am I doing?!’ This is time I could be out and about and doing something.

There’s a few other factors at work aside from the ‘time waster scenario.

Privacy Settings:

Facebook has, yet again, changed their privacy settings and made functions that used to be within a user’s control no longer available. When it came to my personal profile, I was pretty darn strict with who could find me, who could see my postings, etc, etc. That’s all gone now due to Facebook’s changes.

Now, the old settings are gone and whether I like it or not, people can search for and find me on there, leading to a number of friend requests from folks I’ve never laid eyes on sitting forever in my queue.

What’s really even more mind-boggling to me is that with these latest changes, if I ‘like’ or comment on one of my friends’ status’, people who I may be friends with who don’t even know that person or are connected to them, can now comment and like it as well. I just find that odd. These people have no connection whatsoever, and now I sometimes find myself getting apprehensive to ‘like’ or say anything, for fear of what random other online associates will chime in, even though they may have no idea who this other person is that they’re commenting to. It’s just, I don’t know, weird to me.

Then there are photos. I’ve loved sharing photos of good times, my family, etc, but now…I suddenly start thinking more and more about who is seeing those photos. It’s so easy for one friend to hit ‘share’ and that one photo of mine to go out to a world of people whom I don’t know in the least.

Knowing too much:

And, of course there’s just that general feeling of overload with what almost every single person I know is doing, thinking, liking, etc. When in the world did we become a culture that had to know every waking movement of each other and likewise, sharing every intimate detail of our lives?

I started thinking back to when I was a kid, a teenager, heck, even in college and just after graduation. There wasn’t a Facebook (there wasn’t even a MySpace), an Instagram or Twitter.

In a lot of ways, it felt like you lived your life, others lived theirs and the only way you heard about it is if you ran into them or had mutual friends in common. And you know what? Life was pretty good and happy.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit naive and believing ignorance is bliss.

But how many weird anxieties have people in this era gone through because social media fills them with a need to constantly be expressing how upset they are about their car, how boring their professor may be (why are you texting in class anyway, kid?), what you ate for lunch today, etc?!

Cyber-bullying:

Not to mention the harassment that comes with it for some. How many cases of online or cyber-bullying do we hear about in the news as of late? And when it happens, I can’t tell you how frustrated I get at the people who say things like ‘these kids need to toughen up.’ No. You know why? Because, despite what those people think, it’s NOT like it was back in our day or before. When I was growing up, if you had a bully or bullies beating down on you at school, you could go home, find refuge in your house or with your friends.

Today, that bully has such a farther reach than ever before that it was unheard of when I was growing up. The internet and social media is in our homes, in our hands. It. Is. Everywhere. And it’s kind of insane to me that people don’t see that. We could get away as kids/teens. We could regroup, breathe, and tough it out at home with a little down time. Today’s kids don’t get that luxury because it is everywhere they go. They are bombarded with it in school, out of school, in their own damn homes. And no child should have to go through that.

I can not imagine what it is like for these kids to live in this technological age and I honestly am a little fearful for what new fates/dangers/encroachments my son will have to deal with as he gets older.

I often times feel like the true test of parenting won’t be now. It will be when he grows up into a society that has long had the ever-reaching presence of the internet, of social media, of cell phones. The numerous methods and venues that give people the right to think they are absolutely right and the ability to tear apart another, no longer just to their face, to their peers, to their school, but to reach into their very own homes via this technology and create an inescapable prison, one from which so many young people find no escape.

It frightens me. What will he think? How will he handle it? How will I handle it?

All too much:

This stuff is everywhere and I’m just…exhausted by it.

I told my wife that I want to wean myself off of social media because of all this. I tried it, slowly, over the Thanksgiving holiday. When we were at home, my phone sat upstairs in our office while I enjoyed time with her and our little guy. We played, we watched old movies, we laughed, we hugged our cats. I read the newspaper and sipped a great cup of tea while music played on the radio and snow fell outside. I wasn’t posting a million pictures of snow to Facebook and Twitter so people could see that it snowed at our house. Who would care?!

I understand that certain things (the FB page for this blog, the FB page for my comic book, for example) will still require some usage of online and social media for promotion’s sake. Understood. But beyond that, it’s been nice to unplug, even if it was just partially. What a difference it made. We had a wonderful time that did not involve the internet or social media and I absolutely loved it.

To be honest, I felt like a human being again, like those younger, pre-social media days I mentioned.

Yes, I know. I get it. I’m on the internet, writing in a blog about how the internet is sometimes too much for me and can make me fearful for my son’s future. Don’t think that it’s lost on me. It isn’t.

It’s just that I think I have learned how easily we get sucked into this whole other world that’s really quite…artificial.

We start looking at other people’s lives (lives that are manufactured, mind you, as they are choosing exactly what they say, show you for their online presence) and start looking at ours, wondering why they may not be so great. We see the ‘wonderful’ things people are up to and start wondering if we’re missing out on something great instead of seeing how great our own lives are.

I don’t think it has to be that way.

I’m not saying ‘blow up the internet’ or ‘go live in the woods’ (although some days it sounds nice, doesn’t it?). What I’m saying is that I’ve found just how nice, satisfying and happy my life can be when I put the phone away, stop having Facebook open in a web browser tab, or just putting the phone down and out of sight when I come home from work and enjoying the real-life moments going on around me.

Sometimes it can feel like battling an addiction, I admit it, but I really feel like I’m a healthier person for it the more I practice it. It may take some more plugging away, but in time I think I can cut it down to a minimum exposure in my day.

It’s time to re-connect with myself, with my life, and in turn, with my family again. Not a group of people who are made up of people I may know in real life or may have never met. But my real-life, there by my side family.

I’m looking forward to the simplicity, the happiness again.



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