12 Internet Rules for My Future Kids

Being at the time of my life when nothing seems more important than settling down and passing on my genes, I reflected on some of the things I have learned, things I have been taught, and things yet to be explored. Most of what I have learned growing up seems insufficient, dated even. It’s scary. How do you teach a child about gender and sexuality? About the dominance of Western imperialism? About the scary conglomerates of media and church?

And then there’s one thing I never had growing up: the seemingly unavoidable online community. It is impossible, at least I believe, to raise a child exactly the way you were raised. Even so, I would be doing my future children a disservice by denying them internet access. So I compiled a list of 12 rules I will enforce upon my future children regarding the use of the internet:

1. You will only go online for two reasons: if it’s necessary, or if there’s absolutely nothing better to do. You will not live under the shadow of the internet. You will not be shackled by Facebook. You will not be connected 24/7. You will not check your e-mail when you wake up, nor will that be the last thing you do before going to bed. Your priority will be to get a life, with technology as a tool. It is useful but it is not a crutch and definitely not a lifestyle. If you’ve finished reading Poe, digesting Plotinus, or practicing the violin, then, why not? But if there’s at least one productive thing you can do, do that before watching cat videos.

2. You will only take and post selfies when you realize you don’t need to. You will not — and I will definitely not allow this — judge your self-worth and attractiveness by the number of “likes” on your profile picture. You will not seek the approval of your classmates, nor will you pressure yourself into adhering to a stereotypical standard of beauty. You will value something aside from your looks. You will also not use ridiculous filters nor Photoshop it. You are beautiful, and the number of people who give their “thumbs up” will pale to your actual value and to how much I will care for you. Once you understand and accept all that, go ahead and post your selfies.

3. You will not use emoticons in place of expressing yourself. Smiley’s are great, and, when used properly, actually mean something. But when someone tells you a sad story, you will not just reply with a frownie. You will be sympathetic, you will ask why. When someone says ‘hi,’ you will say ‘hello,’ and not give a computer-generated smile. When your boyfriend breaks up with you through chat (and if he does, he’ll have me to answer to), you will not send a “teary.” You will tell him how you feel. You will tell him that he’s a dick. You will learn to express yourself clearly and directly in words rather than ambiguous anthropomorphic pictures. (Extension to the rule: Instead of saying “LOL,” why not say “You’re funny”? It’s more personal and more accurate.)

4. You will always observe proper language. You have a backspace key (or a delete key if you’re lucky enough to have an Apple product. PS: You won’t.) Use it. Frequently. It will be your best friend. Especially if you’re communicating with me. I want to see semi-colons in your e-mail, if semi-colons need to be present. yOu wiL1 n0t tYpe lYk tHis. You will not is grammaring like these. You wil not comit simple speling erors. I understand typographical errors — I’ve been there. However there is a difference between misspelling a word because you’re typing fast and misspelling it just because you don’t care.

5. You will not download apps like Foursquare. You will quickly learn that there is a difference between people who genuinely care about you and people who just like hoarding friends. As such, you will realize that, aside from a select few, no one really cares about where you go, or what you’re currently eating, or watching, or reading. You will not be narcissistic.

6. You will not take pictures of food. If you yourself cooked it and are proud of it, go ahead. But if you’re in a restaurant, put your fucking phone in your pocket and have a conversation. “Chat” actually means something outside of the internet. (Extension to the rule: You will not upload daily photos of your pet. I don’t care if you find it charming.)

7. You will not update your Twitter feed every time you do something. You will not broadcast to the world your daily affairs. You do not owe anyone, aside from yourself, a blow-by-blow detail of every activity you do. You will not post “About to play #basketball with #dad. #FatherSonMoments.” and then follow up with “Playing #basketball with #dad.” Then after five minutes. “#Dad winning. #IHateMyLife.” Then following up with “Beat dad 70-67. #Awesome #Basketball.” I would be too confused if we were playing or you were running a live commentary. Live in the moment. You will enjoy the activity without the need to share it with the world.

8. You will not abuse hashtags. If you turn out gay, you will not post #gay on all your photos. You will not post a series of hashtags, all synonyms of each other (#friends #friend #buddy #bestbud). If you really feel the urge to participate in #ootd or #tbt or whatever fad there may be at that time, you don’t have to put more than one hashtag really. They are, to an extent, more helpful if used sparingly.

9. You will not have an opinion on everything. It is so easy to form an opinion these days. Read one column from an online journal, suddenly you may feel like an expert. You are not. There are millions of injustices going on in the world. It is not one person’s job to stop all of them. Yes, you will take up causes. You will fight for what you believe is right. But you are not expected to fight all wars. You don’t owe anyone an opinion on anything. It is okay to walk away from a cause if it doesn’t make your heart beat faster than normal. You will pick your battles and, more importantly, you will see them through. You will also not form opinions based on one side. You will read opposing views. You will consult. You will reflect. You will not just “share” an article because it was well-written. You will share it, because you have strong views either for or against it. There is no middle ground.

10. You will not believe anything you read. While some may be more obvious than others (I will judge you if you ever fall for anything from The Onion), a lot of things online have skewed political beliefs. You will not fall victim to link baits like Upworthy or Buzzfeed. You will not be impressed by the egotistical ramblings of Thought Catalog. You will see through the transparent neo-liberal political correctness that runs through the Rappler. You will realize that news will always have slants and biases. You will take that all with a grain of salt. You will have standards.

11. You will not attack someone based on race, gender, creed, class, or ethnicity. You are banned from using derogatory words that have severe historical gravitas against particular minority groups. If you want to attack someone, for instance an incompetent politician, you will not make fun of her skin color. You will make fun of her lack of experience, her campaign policies, and the stench of political dynasties that surrounds her, but never of her skin color. More so, you will not even find any of those jokes funny. You will be brought up better than that.

12. You will not have a Tumblr account. If you really want to pretend to be a writer, get a WordPress. Or a Blogspot. Don’t be one of those people who, by simple virtue of having a camera and a computer with internet connection, call themselves “fashion writers.” (PS: If you actually do want to be a fashion writer, you will study fashion meticulously. Posting pictures of all your clothes does not make you a “writer.”)

13. You will realize that you are more than your online persona. You will get sucked into cyberspace. Yes, you will. But please understand that I will like you a hundred times more than all the likes you will ever get on Facebook. Your childhood will forever be locked into my brain — no amount of Throwback Thursdays could match that. Your Outfit of the Day will be the blankets the doctor will wrap your body on the day of your birth. You will, honestly, not need 1000 friends. You don’t even need a hundred. You need, perhaps, ten great ones. And I’m being generous there. Sometimes, you need to disconnect to actually connect.

The point I’m trying to drive at, my dear future children, is that these rules exist. But just like all rules, it is less important to follow them than it is to know why they are enforced. By all means. BREAK THEM. My only request is that if you do break the rules, break them because there is a reason for you to break them. Break them because you know why they’re there and why you disagree. Break them! But, please, do not break them just because it’s cool. Or because all your friends are doing it. Please. I will raise you better than that. I promise.

#ImAllAboutEmpowerment #FutureKids 😉

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