Unless your family has been living in an underground bunker for the past decade, the odds are at least one family member is actively involved in social media. In fact, it’s probably more likely that your Mom, your Grandma, your children, your friends, your coworkers and your clients are all participants in social media. Social media has reached the mainstream, and it’s creating new opportunities and new challenges for families and professionals alike. So how does one balance this colliding of worlds?
That was a key topic of discussion tonight at the Social Media Club – St. Louis’ Social Media+Family event, which was sponsored by Chevy Cruze and held at the Fleishman-Hillard office. St. Louis was one stop of a twelve-city tour for Social Media Club Founder, Chris Heuer, who is on a mission to help families understand the unique opportunities and challenges of social media and family life through open discussion with local bloggers and social media professionals.
Chris moderated the St. Louis discussion, and the panel was comprised of the following local blogging celebrities:
- Todd Jordan (@tojosan) – An “old school geek” who’s been active in social media since the Bulletin Board System (BBS) days. He raised both of his boys around technology from the start, with the youngest online since kindergarten. Todd blogs on Dadomatic.com and on his own blog, Broad Brush, about kids, life and families.
- Kristina Sauerwein (@sourwine) – An author, freelance writer and editor who turned her passions to blogging after becoming a mother. Kristina is well known for her “mom influence” in the parenting community and her blogging contributions to BabyCenter’s Momformation.
- Melody Meiners (@cosmosgirl) – A freelance writer and interactive marketing consultant who is founder and managing editor of Girls Guide to the Galaxy, partner at STLFamilyLife.com, and maintains a personal blog at MrsSmartyPants.com. She’s also the founder of St. Louis Women in Media, a local women’s networking group.
- Doug Terfehr (@dougterfehr) – A marketing communications and social media integrator at Fleishman-Hillard who has embraced the influence social media can have on consumer behavior, is passionate about Red Bull, and has introduced his entire family, including his 7 year old son, to Facebook.
You can watch the video below:
Here is also a recap of some of the key questions and responses from the panelists:
Chris: “How do you manage multiple identities online, when your friends, your families and your coworkers can see everything?”
Todd—Commented that a strange transition for him came with the “reversing of roles” that occurred when his parents came online.
Todd noted that although he’s been active in social media for at least a decade, and that he helped his son get online within a couple years of preschool, he still suddenly felt like “the kid again” once his parents were online. He noted that since social media has hit the mainstream he has to self-censor a bit more than he had to in the past.
Kristina—Noted that while she feels like she’s managing multiple identities and tiptoeing so she doesn’t offend anyone, managing multiple roles is typical of a mother – as a wife, a mother, an employee – you constantly try to balance these roles in your life and that just transitions to the online space.
Doug—Said that 75-80% of his content is pushing something for his clients but he has no fear of expressing himself personally through those same social media channels, even if he knows a client or coworker is there because he feels we all want to have that connection with people.
Melanie—A self-professed “Generation Me”, says she doesn’t censor herself but lives by the law that if you wouldn’t want your mother to hear something then you shouldn’t say it, and that goes for online too.
Chris: “What is TMI to you in social media?”
Kristina—Admits to being a “TMI person”, who would feel comfortable sharing the details of child labor with us, but draws the line with anything that someone has asked her not to say, or clearly would not want her to say. She doesn’t share certain things her husband would not want her to share, but she sometimes enjoys the way he rolls his eyes at her when she threatens to share things — such as when he’s in a bad mood. (Note to self: Might be an evil strategy worth considering.)
Todd—Keeps it simple: His rule is that he won’t talk about things that he wouldn’t want to talk about with someone else anyway. Although the temptation is huge online and people will try to draw information out of you, you shouldn’t share things that are risky.
Doug—Says although he would like to say he has great censorship, his colleagues would tell us that the brain to keyboard connection doesn’t always work that way. However, his rule of thumb is if he can’t say it to his boss or an intern, he shouldn’t say it online. Likewise, if he couldn’t say it to his parents or children, he shouldn’t say it online.
The “Lactivist-Booby Battles”
At some point the conversation shifted to negative reactions online, and Melanie shared a story that will probably go down in #SMCSTL history as the “Lactivist-Booby Battles” episode.
While pregnant, Melanie decided to blog that she was considering bottle-feeding, and she discovered there were “lactivists that will have your head, and there were comments on my blog that made me want to crumble.”
Kristina had a similar experience, and was inspired by the controversy surrounding the topic, so she blogged about “The Booby Battles” on BabyCenter.com.
Todd chimed in with an excellent point that you always have the option to shut comments off, and it’s okay to do this for when necessary.
Children & Social Media
The group covered a lot of other great topics including what age it is appropriate to introduce children to social media, and whether parents should take “The Big Bad Internet” mentality and try to keep their kids off social media, or embrace it and take the “Stay One Step Ahead of the Kids” approach so they can monitor their kids’ activity. Ultimately this group of panelists felt good parenting is good parenting – whether its offline or online, and you need to decide what boundaries are appropriate for your family.
A big thanks to the panelists for sharing their experiences and life stories with the group tonight, it was great to gain some insight from local Mommy and Daddy bloggers. I think it would have been really interesting to hear the perspective of their spouses and other family members too; to gain more of a 360 degree view of the impact social has had on everyone’s lives – perhaps a suggestion for Social Media+Family 2011?
And of course, a super big thanks to Chevy Cruze, Fleishman-Hillard and Social Media Club St. Louis for your support.