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Essay: Social Media and the Outdoors
Facebook might kill your kid's love for nature.
By Christine Stoddard
Psst...Misty Thomas recently wrote, "Facebook might kill your relationship," and I couldn't resist piggybacking on that.
The scene of pine and lavender. The chittering of chipmunks and squirrels. The sight of a golden orb spider's web glistening with the sunrise. These things of beauty remind you that nature isn't “icky.” It is in fact precious, especially as sterile buildings mushroom overnight, infesting America's landscape. But if you grow up with your face glued to a screen, groomed to compete for Facebook likes and Tumblr reposts as soon as you can learn to read, will you recognize these things of beauty?
I grew up with fantasy and fairy tales. I grew up with books like Dragon's Milk and movies like The Never-ending Story. I grew up learning how magic and nature are entwined, perhaps even one in the same. Apart from the occasional jaunt with Myst trilogy and an intense Neopets phase, I steered away from computer games. I preferred to sit under a tree with a book or cuddle up with my stuffed animals for a movie or TV show. Books, movies, and TV shows were the media I consumed.
These media, whether shows like “The Smurfs” or “Adventures of the Gummi Bears,” usually encouraged me to go outside and play. After all, how can a kid watch a move like “Fern Gully” and not want to go swing from a tree or dig a hole in the dirt?
Social media did not yet exist.
I wasn't obsessed with how many of my classmates had liked a cell phone pic of me eating breakfast. While I use social media today and appreciate that it has merits, I worry that it doesn't prompt kids to respect nature and play outdoors the way traditional children's media, whether The Wind in the Willows or “Yogi Bear,” often does.
Does this mean launching a Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest campaign for the munchkins? Maybe. If properly executed, it might really get them excited. Or they might just roll their eyes and go back to taking selfies for Facebook. I'm pretty sure the next big thing won't involve earth fairies, much to my chagrin.
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