If you ever want to sound old when it comes to discussing technology, just add the word “the” before you say the name of it. Watch, I’ll show you:

I like to watch my soaps on “the television.”

My kids are on “the Facebook.”

I like “the Twitter.”

Even as I typed those three examples, I felt old fashioned, like I was blogging from within a Cracker Barrel. (The popular restaurant chain, not the barrels in which we all keep our crackers.)

I don’t do that though. I don’t add the word “the.” I’m hip and relevant and young and with it. Or so I like to pretend, and that’s a problem. When we pretend we already understand things we don’t really understand, we never really get to understand them.

So let’s be honest today, many of us pretend we understand social media, but we don’t. And this disconnect starts with how we define it.

Here’s how most parents define social media:

Social media = Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Some parents will add on to that definition things like Snapchat.

Those things are indeed part of social media, but that definition is too narrow.

Here’s how I think we should define it:

Social media = Any technology that lets you share something with someone else.

Texting is social media. Sending a photo or a text to another person, even if it’s just one friend, is a form of social media. It might just feel like a text, but it’s a media that is allowing you to be social. The same thing applies to email.

Commenting on a YouTube video is a form of social media. You just shared a thought with a lot of other people. On the parent side of things, LinkedIn is social media. You shared your work history with a lot of people, many of them strangers.

The reason we need a bigger definition of the phrase is that it gives us the chance to have a bigger conversation with our kids. Most kids and students don’t think texting is social media. So while we give them speeches about the way to use Facebook, we leave them vulnerable to the other half of social media.

Let’s be the parents who don’t pretend we understand everything and admit when we don’t.

Let’s redefine social media and invite our kids into that conversation.


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Jon Acuff is the New York Times Bestselling author of 4 books. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and two daughters. Read more of his work at Acuff.meStuffChristiansLike.net or follow him on Twitter @JonAcuff.