Look at Me: Ninja Warriors, Social Media and the Retrogressing Toddler

“Look at me; look at me.” I heard that a lot this week from an adorable 3 year old. She swam, she climbed, she soared through the air on a swing, all with a melodic, “Look at me.” I asked her nanny, “do all kids do that?” After I explained, I meant do all little kids, 2, 3, and 4 years olds naturally say, “look at me?” She responded, “Yes. they are making milestones.” I don’t have kids, I’m not around kids, so I could see the week play out with fresh eyes and of course I have a hypotheses.

Toddlers will push the limit. Neil deGrasse Tyson says let kids be kids and I got to see this play out. Don’t stop them when they are curious. You can tell them what is going to happen, but, you don’t have to stop them. If they push something, they begin to learn about gravity and what happens when things tip over. You know it won’t end well, but that’s how they learn. At the same time, if they are on the edge and about to tip over, you may let them experience that moment of sheer terror of free fall in the air before you catch them. This is why they need, the lifeguard at the pool, the baby sitter in the house and  “the adult” in the room.”Toddlers are me centric. I am hungry, I am sleepy, I want to play. It’s the mine, mine, mine phase. Alas, adult supervision nudges the child into sharing, a sense of community and responsibility to others

Of course children don’t recognize this at the time. After my brother was born, my parents would often say to me, “Stop Retro Gressing.” It sounded a lot like Sheila Penelope in tone, except now I have a new name. The reality was, I was retrogressing. I was doing “look at me.” for things I’d already done repeatedly then I stopped doing things I knew how to do to the point my mom put me in kindergarten when I was three. “Look she’s completely potty trained and I have to get her out of the house.”

Social media like tic tok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter are the somewhat  adult version of the three year old’s “look at me, look at me.” The question is, has social media made us, as a collective, a study in retrogression. Have the postings of “look at me,” nurtured me centric tribes? Has this produced a mine, mine, mine society without the benefit of “the adult” in the room?  Who has authority to monitor the situation and step in when there is a problem? Children develop the, “that’s not fair,” rationale, as if that makes everything all right, when it’s really just an impotent phase. The adult equivalent is, “I have a right.” What does that mean?

A friend described how early drivers would often crash. They would say whoah to the car to stop instead of using the  brakes. It was a transition from horse and carriage to cars. Because this error often led to a fatality, it was easy to see a trend and correct.  This week, consider my hypothesis of social media’s equivalency to “look at me,” and the possibility of social retrogressing.

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