A heartwarming story came across my Facebook page this week, about some kids whose dad told them if they got 1 million likes on their Facebook photo they could have a new puppy. They got their likes in about 7 hours, and their dad has promised to keep his word and get them a (rescue) puppy.
Adorable kids + puppies = internet gold, right? It takes less than a second to click the little up-thumb, and now -- thanks to Facebook's news ticker -- all your friends can immediately see and join in. Then we can all pat ourselves on the back for doing something nice today.
Here is the part of the post where I turn into the a Puppy Hating Grinch who probably enjoys seeing kids cry: I think asking for attention on Facebook is a stupid -- if not downright dangerous -- lesson to teach children.
Why didn't the father ask his children to save their allowance money to cover the adoption costs of a puppy? Or make a sticker chart for responsible behavior where once they filled it, the dog could be their reward? I'd even have less of a problem with simply waiting for a special occasion -- a birthday perhaps -- and surprising the kids with a trip to the shelter to bring home a puppy. The lesson learned could be about responsibility and delayed gratification and doing nice things for those we love: all important factors in dog ownership.
Instead, the lesson these kids learned is that the attention of a million strangers is valuable and that being Facebook famous is something to strive for. In a society where "internet famous" is mostly a negative thing -- anyone remember when Tila Tequila was just someone with a ton of MySpace friends? -- why would you encourage your kids to focus on that kind of popularity? I have no problem with anyone, adult or child, wanting to be well-known for a legitimate reason. Fame in itself isn't negative. It's the "Look at me! Look at me!" attitude of Facebook fame that I take issue with. Get Facebook likes for being clever or original or an amazing artist.
I sincerely hope those kids get a new puppy and love it enormously. I'm sure this is nothing more than a fun anecdote they'll tell someday when they get together for holidays ("Hey, remember the time we were on Good Morning America?") I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with being liked. But I do think rewarding kids for the attention of strangers is a mistake. Let's reward our kids for kindness, responsibility, patience, wise choices and not running with sharp objects instead.
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