We’re in a time of transition as we try to find our comfort zone with how to live our lives online. We all have friends who aren’t on Facebook, and we have have friends who are all over Facebook in the worst way (selfies in a church? please, no. Action shots of your child potty training? Not only do I not want to see it, the older version of your child doesn’t want the world to see it, either.). Most of us fall somewhere in between, trying to find the right balance of private and public. Randi Zuckerberg heard those concerns from people feeling overwhelmed and confused by social media, how to live their lives with an online presence, and how to guide their kids, who are growing up online. Her new book, Dot Complicated, is that guidepost.
Dot Complicated has been characterized as Randi encouraging people to unplug, with the note that this is hilarious/shocking/controversial coming from a former Facebook exec. This is a mischaracterization because while it sounds like she’s calling to everyone to cut their electric cords, she’s really suggesting balance and thoughtfulness. The books raises the issues that many people are dealing with and it makes suggestions for conversations to have with kids, examples of decisions she made when in the same position, and encouragement to turn off technology to live life because not everything needs to be shared online.
For some it’s a reminder, for others it may be new lessons, but she writes that good digital habits begin at home, the iPad is not a babysitter, think before you post, and think before you friend online. The call is to not forget to live your life, which is even more clear in her children’s book Dot. It’s the Ferris Bueller quote – “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” – applied to digital life.
As a parent, sometimes it is so much easier to give in. It’s easier to hand over electronics at dinner out than to deal with antsy children. Really any situation can be made easier by handing over electronics, but that doesn’t mean it’s better. It would be easier to feed my kids Oreos and Coke for dinner, but easier doesn’t mean good for them. My job is to teach them digital boundaries and much of that is by leading through example. Anytime I get stuck at a long stoplight, my phone calls to me for just a quick email check or maybe a glance at Instagram, and every single time I have to imagine how I’d feel if my kids picked up their phones while operating a car. I truly have to picture my child distracted behind the wheel to keep myself from picking up my phone. The pull is that strong.
The book makes it easy, offering a list of suggested topics to discuss with your child (page 150), including talking about not being a bully, think twice about posting photos of your body, and only friend people online that you know in real life. There are a lot of life lessons that build up to these points – we talk about bullying in real life, and thanks to in app interactions, we’ve already discussed the potential danger in chatting with strangers online. Parenting was hard enough before the start of the digital age, and now, with new apps and social media platforms being introduced rapidly, it takes advice from someone who has been there to help.
One last point that I loved was about how Randi decided how to mesh her personal and professional lives. She was warned against over-posting when her son was born and told that it wasn’t professional, but after consideration, she decided to continue to blend her two lives online and to “change what it means to be a professional in the Internet age.” Not all of this digital transition is about our kids, is very much about us and how we help define this next stage.
Want to meet Randi? She’s be signing books today and tomorrow in the South Bay. Today she’ll be at Linden Tree books in Los Altos from 4 – 5 p.m., and tomorrow she’ll be at the MAC store at Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara at 5 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Dot Complicated
Disclosure: I was given a free review copy of the book. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.