Not so long ago, I was a carpool mom. Often the carpool mom because I could be and while it was occasionally a pain (see entertaining story about driving smelly boys through a typhoon here), it was also a great way to get to know my kids’ friends, learn some new derogatory words to call women thanks to their rap songs NOT my driving AND eavesdrop on convos that I normally wouldn’t get to hear.
But here’s the thing: Once they start driving, it gets harder to keep tabs on their social lives. UNLESS you resort to social media. Which is a very, very, VERY mixed bag. You see pictures you can’t unsee, and worse, occasionally read about messy high school drama involving sisters and the boyfriends other people think are no good but only because other people suck and don’t know him like I know him, to paraphrase one post.
When my kids hit high school, I had a sudden boost in Gen Z followers on Instagram, my preferred mode of social media because, as I have said before, my feed is full of pretty pastries, fluffy hair and fluffier puppies.
It was kinda confusing. Why would they care what I, a geriatric influencer*, posted? And I was never quite sure how to respond to the photos of scantily clad underage girls hoisting Solo cups — except by lecturing my kids again about how they need to be smart about what they put out on the interweb because employers and colleges care about those shenanigans. As do snoopy moms. And dads — one of my husband’s friends lamented that he didn’t want to look like a perv if he “liked” one of his niece’s cringe-y pix.
I finally realized that since these whippersnappers have literally thousands of followers, who’s gonna notice if someone’s mom doesn’t like their snap?! Well, apparently if they’re part of No. 1’s college crew they do.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet No. 1’s squad**. These young people are a sweet, entertaining, intelligent group who rarely post on social media, but one day, I got a text from No. 1 demanding to know why I hadn’t yet started following one of her friends, let’s call him Luke because that is his name. He had started following me weeks ago and I had not reciprocated.
“Um, I’m sure your friend doesn’t want your mom following him.”
“Yes, he does.”
I do not get you, Gen Z. I really don’t.
But I dutifully followed him (and immediately received a subsequent thank you text from No. 1), and because I am a
nosy curious mom, I make a point of seeking out all of her friends whose online IG handles I can figure out. Or, who demand followage.
One day, I noticed an unusual pattern, that my posts were getting a ton of likes — all from her friends, and weirdly early in the day for largely nocturnal college students. I typically post around 6:30 a.m. Turns out those goofballs are competing to see who can be the first to like my photos.
I have mixed feelings. Are they mocking me? Or is it more out of a weird sense of competitiveness that bubbles up among college pals****? Eh, either way now that I know this, I like to mess with them by shaking things up and throwing up posts later in the morning, when they might have class, or super early like 5 am. It’s been more than a year, and they’re still at it and even a few more have hopped on the Instamom train. I guess if they can keep it up until graduation, I’ll have to award some sort of prize. Sniff, as if my posts weren’t enough of a prize***.
*Ha, ha, ha. I’m not that geriatric nor am I an influencer. Boy, do I HATE that word.
**Parenting Pro Tip: If you want to get to know your kid’s college friends, dangle a free meal at a restaurant.
***They’re really not. I mostly put up pix of my favorite dog sleeping or food.
****When my husband was in college, he and his roommates entertained themselves with gastrointestinal feats of strength. They’d put increasingly weirder ingredients unearthed from the kitchen on whatever they happened to be eating at the time, which was usually mac and cheese.