"Don't use that emoji, mom": My teens think I suck at social media [roll eye]
“Don’t use ‘K’!”
“It shuts down the conversation! You’re saying you don’t want to speak to her anymore... LOL! You’ve sent it.”
I’m WhatsApp-ing a friend. She’s told me she’ll do something for me later and I reply “K, let me know.” According to Kid2 and her 15-year-old cousin, I’m not using the platform correctly.
It’s not the first time this has happened. “Don’t use that emoji mom,” mutters Kid2. When I look at her, confused, she rolls her eyes and says it’s not cool. The implication is that I’m too old to understand.
Really? I could argue that my age makes me more qualified than she is to decide which emojis to use and that, in general, I probably understand a lot more than she does. Also, being old means I don’t give a damn anymore about the rules, so I’ll use any emojis I please, thanks very much.
Apparently I’m an ignoramus and teenagers invented social media and its rules. And there are a lot of rules. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not familiar with all of them. I don’t know the meaning of all the acronyms they use when they chat to each other. It was only recently that I found out what “idc” stood for.
Not that I care.
Until yesterday, when I took two minutes to look it up, I didn’t know that the different colour heart emojis had their own special meanings. I should apparently avoid sending a red heart to my guy friend, because I don’t want to send the wrong message.
Ageism is what it is. Being from the Jurassic Age means it’s not for me? Pfft.
I first noticed it when I was giving a presentation to high schoolers. Introducing myself as a social media manager drew giggles and rolling eyes from some of them. What would this old person know about that anyway?
A friend was roundly taken down a peg or two by someone younger than him recently. He created a story on Instagram, and annotated it with “Yaaaas!” “Aren’t you a bit old to be using that?” was his friend’s question after seeing it.
I could remind the teenagers in my life that my day job is social media manager. I could argue that I was there when Twitter and Facebook started and that I was blogging before they were born. There were chat rooms and the beginnings of IRC. There was the anticipatory thrill of dialling up to the internet and the exasperation of having the time to make a cup of tea while you waited for your YouTube video to buffer. I experienced all this while their greatest achievement was rolling over.
“Mom, you know you could just send the photo from within the app.”
“Yes of course.” (OK, no, not really.)
“So why didn’t you?”
“I didn’t feel like it.”
I’ll continue to use social media, so-called teenage rules be damned. It’s what I do for work, and it’s how I communicate with my teens, my friends, and sometimes, my colleagues.
And if I ‘mistakenly’ send the wrong message? Meh. idc, K?
Have you deciphered this generation's "secret codes" yet? Have you had any major "social media fails" in the eyes of the youth? Share your stories with firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish them!