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Parents and social media: Is it always good to share?

We all know someone who has embraced social media a bit too enthusiastically. Most of us politely press ‘like’ and move on, but who hasn’t occasionally wished for a button that expressed ‘enough already’, ‘too much information’ or, ‘your children really won’t thank you embarrassing them like this’? Janita Clamp for one.

The unexamined life is not worth living.

When one of the founders of western philosophy declared this over 2,000 years ago he was referring to the pursuit of wisdom, not issuing an edict to navel gazing millennials. Poor old Socrates – one can almost hear him shouting from beyond the grave, ‘I didn’t mean it literally guys!’

Social mediaThe desire to create and manage a perfect public persona is hardly new. Ancient Greek and Roman statues, coins, Renaissance portraits – these were all intended to promote an idealised image of an important person or dynasty. Prehistoric cave paintings never show hunters failing to bag a woolly mammoth (or, for that matter, who had the less glamorous job of cooking the wretched thing). And now, thanks to Facebook, everyone can edit and share the very best version of themselves with the whole world. And they do.

So, here’s our not entirely serious guide to the commoner species in the social media jungle (or at least the ones that were easiest to catch).

The Completist

Mr and Mrs Completist believe that no aspect of child rearing is too dull to be documented and shared. So far they have posted 1,560 status updates about their four-year-old. Mrs Completist is currently expecting twins; Mr Completist has bought a new camera.

How to manage: Run away.

The humblebragger

Is there anything worse than faux humility? You know the sort of thing – photo of a teenage bedroom featuring filthy plates/Pot Noodle cartons. Caption: Risking food poisoning turns out to have been worth it (15 A* at GCSE!!!!!!!). #proudmummy #nextstopcambridge. Or ‘Just TOO hot to do anything here in the Maldives.’ Or ‘Our little ones are SO enjoying their reverse advent calendar!’ #thinkingofthelessfortunate.

How to manage: Sorry, if these people are your friends then there isn’t a solution.

The Pet Parent

You’re pretty sure these people have children but you’d need to trawl though four hundred photos of the family dogs/cats/horses/iguanas, click and magnify to find any evidence. Hang on a minute, isn’t that their youngest? Just about visible in the background behind the llama.

How to manage: What’s to manage? The internet was invented for sharing pictures of adorable animals.

The #personalbests

Every morning they check in to let the world know how many miles they’ve covered before sunrise. Every evening they post photos of things they passed on their after-work run. Inevitably the photos are blurry because they didn’t actually stop. They share their pre-race breakfasts, injuries, medals, Park Run stats and, worst of all, selfies of their wiry little bodies in neon vests. Why? Nobody can catch up with them to ask.

How to manage: Don’t be churlish, it’s easier to press ‘like’ from your sofa than run a marathon.

THE SHOUTER

Easy to spot, everything is in capital letters, everything is a conspiracy. These people are very angry. Don’t they know that Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn or Donald Trump (delete as appropriate) can’t hear them? Unfortunately we can. Word of warning, they reach peak shout at election time.

How to manage: Shout the opposite point of view even louder, put your fingers in your ears, or leave quietly.

Wannabe Waltons

Their toddlers skip uncomplainingly to the top of Snowdon, their fresh-faced and unsulky teenagers willingly attend all family gatherings (they have lots of family gatherings) and are happy to be photographed - and tagged. Young and old enjoy nothing better than a board game together in the evening. They never argue, it never rains on their parades and they even manage to make a camping holiday look like fun. You reassure yourself that whoever is curating their lives is just very, very good at it.

How to manage: You are right to be suspicious, they are avatars and their reality is virtual.

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