Gorgon Head Roman Baths, Bath (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Our son has packed up his family of five and moved them to London for three months. They are living in a sweet little house in a leafy neighborhood. They can walk to several parks. They've played Scrabble at a nearby pub, climbed Primose Hill and visited Bath--spending some time at Farleigh Hungerford Castle. The two eldest kids have kicked the soccer ball in North London near Wembly and are trying out for youth football teams there.
We don't know this because our son, daughter-in-law or any of the kids have emailed, texted, Skyped or cell-phoned to tell us so. In fact, there's been very little personal interchange. We know what we know from the Facebook posts, photos and lengthy caption descriptions--down to their visit to Bath and their delight in a tour of the 4th century Roman baths --that are on our son's Facebook page and on a Shutterfly account he set up.
Even though it's informative, the means of communication feels impersonal . We don't know what the 6-year-old thought about the walking tour of Medieval London or how the 11- and 13-year-olds assess the football/soccer played by Londoners their age. Or how the home-schooling is going. We know what they're doing, and we can see by the sweaters they're wearing that it's a lot chillier in London than it is here, but that's it.
It isn't the same as keeping in touch by Skype or Google Chat--something we did regularly with our daughter and her family when they lived in Berlin for a year. Clearly, three months is not a year, so there isn't the same need. Still, we wouldn't mind the chance to sit in their kitchen--virtually, as we did in our daughter's Berlin apartment--and chat about this and that.
We shouldn't complain. We're part of a general (albeit select) audience. This is how information is shared in the digital age.
We're not alone in our social media half-life. In answer to reader-parents who wanted to know what to do about the online means their son uses to inform them (and everyone else) about his activities, Philip Galanes, the New York Time's Social Qs columnist, suggested this: "Find a way to stop feeling slighted by your son's use of social media. It is not about you....Think of your son as a newfangled memorist. That's what his blog and social media posts are aiming for. And read them. What better way to show him that you're interested in his life."
We're heeding that advice and staying au courant. We're also solving our personal communication issue the old-fashioned way. We're cashing in our frequent flyer miles for a week-long visit across the pond. Nothing social media about that.