Sometimes Your Best Friends in Life Aren't on Facebook

PittGirl wonders if it's still possible to raise kids to be big-hearted people in an age of self-obsession.



Raising kids nowadays means we have the technology to track their every move. We can check their grades whenever we want. If they try to ditch school, we’ll know by 10 a.m., when the school’s attendance system calls the house to rat them out, and we can punish them simply by changing the Netflix password.

Technology also can make it difficult to raise a respectable member of society. Rules that didn’t exist years ago now are parental mantras: You can’t erase the Internet. Don’t text anything you wouldn’t say to Gram. For the love of God, never use the #blessed hashtag, not even if you win the lottery 10 days in a row.

Our social media-obsessed society has spurred an increasingly inward focus, even in preteens. How many “likes” did my picture get? Why does she have more followers than me? Twelve-year-olds are posting duck-faced selfies to Instagram and asking their followers to rate them. Then they obsess about their appearance.

I’m raising an 11-year-old boy. My hope is simple: When prospective employers Google his name 10 years from now, they won’t find an Internet meme revolving around something dumb he did in college that involves a police cruiser, two traffic cones and a roll of duct tape. It’s a simple goal — for him to keep a clean Internet record. Good grades and manners are just the cherries on top.

Before I let him jump into social media, I want to be sure he’s learned to care more about others than himself. I don’t want him to worry about followers, “likes,” retweets, rankings and whatever the hell they’re doing on Klout.

At times, he’ll whine about coveting the latest trendy shoes or socks. (Side thought: Did you know that Nike has convinced America’s youth that they must spend $24 on a pack of socks? My mom probably bought 50 pairs for $24 at Hills.)

I say, “You’re spoiled. I’m taking you to Haiti, where kids might not get to eat for a whole day. Where it doesn’t matter if your shoes are KDs or Lebrons — because you’re lucky to have shoes. Where some kids don’t want Instagram; they want a house with real walls.”

That lecture has gotten stale. He knows I’m probably not taking him to Haiti to learn lessons about having an outward focus. How can I teach him that what he has or wears isn’t the least bit important? Rather, what he does, especially for others, will impact his self-worth and success. After all, no great empire was built upon the foundation of the perfect duckface. (I’m getting that stitched on a pillow.)

Turns out, a generous ’Burgher can do something quick that will teach what hours of speeches never could.

My son loves baseball. Every day he begs my husband to play catch — on any warm evening, they’ll be in the yard until the daylight (or the 42-year-old shoulder) gives out. He watches or listens to every Pirates game. Has a shoebox full of baseball cards. (That’s a country-music song lyric; I don’t apologize.)

We recently found two envelopes tucked in the mailbox. Inside the first was a scrawled note: “Seen you outside cutting the grass in a Tabata jersey and wanted to toss these your way for you and your son. Had a lot of help recently and wanted to pay it forward. God bless, and go Bucs!”

Out of the second envelope we pulled two Jose Tabata baseball cards, including his rookie card. Both were perfectly preserved, autographed and with certificates of authenticity.

My son quietly turned the cards over and over in his hands. Someone we don’t know gave him a treasure and asked nothing in return. He wasn’t following my son on Twitter. Wasn’t his friend on Facebook. Never clicked “like” on Instagram. Didn’t care about his shoes or Klout score. He gifted something out of selflessness.

That’s a person maintaining an outward focus. That’s the goal — the lesson lived out loud: Be a good person, not a good social-media user. I think my son learned that firsthand. And I didn’t have to get on a plane to Haiti to teach him.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best Restaurants 2016

Best Restaurants 2016

Which 33 Pittsburgh-area establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

In addition to awarding Best Restaurant honors this year, our Independent Restaurant Review Panel also voted to recognize six chefs for their contributions to Pittsburgh’s culinary community in 2015.
Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

German blends a collage of community activism and soul-searching artistry.
PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

It only takes one person, one jagoff, one childish, attention-seeking, discourteous jerk to send a woo through PNC Park.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

PyroFest will also include live music, food, a Kids Zone and more.
8 Things You Might Not Know About Kennywood’s Jack Rabbit

8 Things You Might Not Know About Kennywood’s Jack Rabbit

When you compare what it cost to build the coaster in 1920 to what it would cost today, it's obvious Kennywood's owners got their money's worth.
Second New Restaurant Moving into Union Trust Building

Second New Restaurant Moving into Union Trust Building

The upscale seafood eatery is expected to open in late 2016 or early 2017.
Local Filmmaker Celebrates Pittsburgh Food

Local Filmmaker Celebrates Pittsburgh Food

Artist David Bernabo creates a series of films that track various aspects of Pittsburgh's food culture.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best Restaurants 2016

Best Restaurants 2016

Which 33 Pittsburgh-area establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

In addition to awarding Best Restaurant honors this year, our Independent Restaurant Review Panel also voted to recognize six chefs for their contributions to Pittsburgh’s culinary community in 2015.
Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

German blends a collage of community activism and soul-searching artistry.
PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

It only takes one person, one jagoff, one childish, attention-seeking, discourteous jerk to send a woo through PNC Park.
Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Nearby Canonsburg is a rare find for antiques collectors.
U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

The U.S. Open is returning to Oakmont — and unlike previous tournaments, this one could make the community a vital part of the action.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

PyroFest will also include live music, food, a Kids Zone and more.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Richard DeShantz Plans Two New Restaurants at Salt of the Earth Building

Richard DeShantz Plans Two New Restaurants at Salt of the Earth Building

DeShantz owns three other Pittsburgh restaurants and is about to open a fourth.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Highmark Stadium Pub Wants Your Attention

Highmark Stadium Pub Wants Your Attention

The in-house tavern at the Riverhounds' home stadium is now welcoming guests during weekdays. But is it worth a dedicated stop?

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Crosby’s Long-Awaited Signature has Pens Pondering The Possibilities

Crosby’s Long-Awaited Signature has Pens Pondering The Possibilities

For Sidney Crosby and for the Penguins, happy days are here again. But the emotion of the moment won’t mean much if Crosby and the Penguins aren’t able to build upon it as the series progresses.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Flip the Switch: Industrial-Style Lighting Made in Pittsburgh

Flip the Switch: Industrial-Style Lighting Made in Pittsburgh

An electrician by trade, designer Thomas Verscharen creates custom lighting out of repurposed pieces.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The Angry Birds Movie Is Just a Total Mess

The Angry Birds Movie Is Just a Total Mess

Plus reviews of "The Nice Guys" and "Neighbors 2," as well as local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Get with the (Wedding) Program

Get with the (Wedding) Program

Have you ever considered making programs for your wedding guests? If not, think again and get creative.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
A Tiny House that's Big on Energy Savings

A Tiny House that's Big on Energy Savings

Spread out across the city for these upcoming events, including a “Tiny House” exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center displayed by the FIY Network.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Duquesne University to Host Small Business Networking Event

Duquesne University to Host Small Business Networking Event

The event will connect hundreds of small business managers and owners and provide useful information to help them take their enterprises to the next level.

Comments