It’s easy to join the noisy chorus of all that’s wrong with social media. From shady content to poor social manners, we’ve seen and heard it all. But there are subtle glimpses too that largely go unnoticed, that speak volumes of how people change and grow with time. Maybe it’s the window I’ve been given years ago to see through, to nurture life that’s young. But scrolling slowly through season after season, through storms and quiet, I have always had one long and consistent privilege, which I consider pure and simple as a sacred trust. And what’s that privilege? I watch them grow.
The games grow too!
I watch them grow from Game Boy through YouTube, from PBS Kids to anime. And they laugh and think it’s odd when I tell them I’m not into video games and that I’ve never had a favorite anime character. Soon the world they hold between their flying fingers flings them headlong into a world-wide-web of choice, of light and dark and way past mama’s come-home call.
And we, the seasoned ones, marvel, like and unlike, laugh and cry and sometimes cringe (admit it) through posts that notch-off seasons of poor choice, through mosh pits and blazing blunts, through new loves found and lost, through danger real and if we’re lucky, overcome, an arm and hand outstretched, a selfie holding onto hope. And still, I watch them grow.
Just where lmfao gave way to something deep and lasting I can’t say. I blinked and a middle finger to the world came down and a ring finger up and sparkling announced a brand new chapter. And he, who somehow found a barber and a collared shirt, one day messaged me a brand new pic of he with she and something sleeping in between and sweet. A one, a two and now a family of three and guess who gets to watch them grow?
I watch them grow as profiles fill with birthdays rolling into training wheels and hashtags moaning, “Pick up the kids, go shopping…what’s for dinner-where do the hours go?” And somewhere in between angels in the snow and one run batted in the news feed updates and it’s time to scroll again so I can watch them, yet again, grow.
Yesterday’s snow angel now fifteen texts the ancient one on her new phone.
“You go online?” she asks, maybe thinking I’m still waiting for electricity.
“Of course,” I say, and humor her with, “Even Facebook and Twitter. Who knew?”
And she fires back, “Facebook is so last century, Kevin! You should get Kik.”
“I use that too,” wishing for a way to express that smugly in my reply.
“You do?” she answers.
But as I type I’m thinking to myself; the village square and corner store, with their quiet lookers-on, guardians really, of each passing generation have simply vanished from the landscape. No one these days visits malls and outlets and thinks to pause, to just sit and be present, and take in the ebb and flow of what we once called our community. Who today at Amazon or iTunes cares if you make it safely with your package out the door and across that busy street called life?
So damn it, yes, somebody, somewhere, needs to watch them grow. Will you?
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Text by Kevin Lee
Photos: Top and middle-right by K. Lee. Middle left of wall art by Jen Moura taken at Boston Children’s Hospital. Bottom graphic (center) from the Web.