Christmas is here again and I found myself, in an unusual circumstance, reflecting on families being together. A few nights ago, my son had a turn (it could have been a teenage faint brought on by being ordered to bed before midnight) and was rushed to A&E in an ambulance. “Well this is exciting,” declared my thirteen-year-old daughter, as she piled behind me into the ambulance at 1am.
The sirens didn’t wail but as we made speedy haste to hospital, she proceeded to lie back in the big leather ambulance seat, take out her iPod and take pictures like there was no tomorrow. No saving my son’s embarrassment as he lay white-faced and half-conscious. Nor, as he splayed be-gowned and be-dazed on the trolley in the A&E cubicle, monitors attached to his chest. Click, click, click. Instagram and Facebook were posted and we hadn’t even got home for breakfast.
No need then to take time out to call family or friends to update. In flooded the Facebook posts, relayed to me by my link to my daughter’s page, followed by the sympathetic phone calls and emails.
As I sat in the ambulance watching my daughter, I reflected that if my daughter can behave like this is in a crisis, what photo opportunities will she not give up when it comes to Christmas day? Will we get to spend any time as a family, eating or watching a film?
The gloomy scene presented itself before my eyes. Daughter in splendid isolation in her bedroom, texting and relaying endless Christmas shots on Instagram. Son, in the study, watching his own movie (because only losers watch Downton), husband’s behind attached to the sofa, watching Eternal Heroes of Sport or somesuch on Sky On Demand. Me alone, glass in hand, buried in my latest novel-fix on my Kindle.
Would we even get to have candle-lit Christmas dinner together at the table?
Remember the iconic ’90s Oxo advert with Lynda Bellingham and Michael Redfern? Two perfect children. Family eating perfect turkey with perfect trimmings and perfect steaming gravy. All together at the table. The Oxo family became a metaphor for family togetherness.
My family is not the Oxo family.
Snapchat and crackers
Along came the digital revolution and our insatiable appetite for information and entertainment on-demand changed the way we spend time together. Imagine an Oxo family Christmas TV ad today. Dad would be the only one in the kitchen. He’s cooking. Daughter in bedroom. Selfies, texting, Instagram. Son in another room, gaming, music from iPod. Mum looking at Christmas piccies on Facebook or on mobile to her mum. Christmas dinner on a tray in front of the TV.
But maybe change is happening so fast that predicting who will do what next Christmas is not so easy. I had thought Instagram was a teen thing and Facebook a 30 to 45-year-old network. Wrong. The article Don’t Look For Teenagers on Pinterest reveals a different picture. Many of the early myths of social networking are starting to fall as these platforms become commonplace across all demographics. While networks do have their own unique user profiles, data from Pew Research Center shows that 15% of adults now use Pinterest, and only 1% of teens do, although 94% of teens, despite declining usage, are still on Facebook.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of the Pew research shows that when it comes to emerging platforms in social networks, adults may be quicker to embrace them than teens. Take Instagram, where 13% of adults are already using it compared with 11% of teens. Likewise, Yahoo’s new acquisition Tumblr is used by 8% of adults, slightly outpacing 5% of teens.
So all might have changed by next Christmas. Maybe it will be me, upstairs in my bedroom lounging in bed, glass in hand, posting my piccies on Flickr and blogging away on Tumblr. The kids will be at the bottom of the stairs shouting, “Come on Mum. Now. We want to spend time with you. Please come down and be with us.”
Dad, will be in the kitchen basting the turkey. Obviously. (He always does).
Some things social media will never change.