The other day I mentioned that we recently allowed both kids to join Instagram, with certain provisions. It was Riley that initiated the request, and she has jumped in with both feet, instantly connecting with dozens of classmates and peers. We were surprised that Ryan was so enthusiastic about the idea as well, but a couple of weeks in, it’s obvious why.
He has connected with most of his school buddies and hockey teammates. The other day I was perusing his feed (part of the terms under which we allowed both kids to join the social network) when I saw the shot above.
In one moment the picture made me stop, smile and appreciate where we are, while at the same time validating the decision to allow Ryan on Instagram. It is a slightly out-of-focus selfie of Ryan and two of his teammates in the locker room after open hockey on Saturday night. Ryan is sweaty, but clearly smiling. He is clowning with one of his friends, who is pretending to punch him in the head, while the other crowds into the frame.
Ryan captioned it “with the boys,” before adding a hash tag with the name of our town at the suggestion of one of the friends.
“With the boys,” represents so much more than three simple words may suggest. It means connection, a feeling of belonging and understanding of his surroundings.
Lest you think I’m reading too much into it, let me explain. Hockey players call each other “boys” all the time. Every time the NHL puts mics on players, what comes back is an endless stream of exaltations from the bench that are some variation of the following:
“Let’s go boys!”
“Skate hard now boys!”
“That’s the way boys!”
So I suspect it’s no accident that Ryan captioned his photo “with the boys,” because that’s exactly what the photo depicts.
Beyond that, the photo represents connection. The two other people in the picture are teammates, yes, but they have become genuine friends. They have been to our house numerous times. So to see Ryan, when he’s supposed to be hustling to change and get his butt outside to the car where I’m waiting to pick him up, stop to take a photo with his, yes, genuine friends is one of those Not Little Things we love to talk about here.
Ryan has never been much for photography, and the few occasions when he did take pictures were very poignant ones. But being on Instagram has given him the impetus to take more pictures, and I’m glad. Even though I once speculated that the reason he didn’t take pictures might have to do with a photographic memory, I’m very happy that he will have some digital reminders of this period in his life and this connection with these peers. These friendships were hard-forged and are the product of lots of development and hard work. I love to see them documented in this way.
A sweaty selfie was not Ryan’s only contribution to Instagram this week. In between shots of various hockey games (he pauses the TV and photographs the screen as a way of sharing the game he’s watching), I found the following. Ryan attempted a similar “artsy” shot when he first got his Instagram account, but it was too dark. This time he lit it much better, and even applied a filter.
The picture is another selfie, taken from the floor, looking up at Ryan as he practices his stickhandling in the basement. I asked him how he took it.
“With my toe,” he answered.
I had to admire his creativity, and I love this caption as well. “Got em nice toedrag,” has the slangy ring of Instagram-speak and also makes a pun-ish allusion to how he took the photo (with his toe, and a “toe-drag” is a hockey stickhandling maneuver).
I never would have figured Ryan for such artistic expression. I’m excited to see what he comes up with next.
I will remain vigilant about both kids’ activities on Instagram. But so far, it is going well. Ryan proudly tells us each time he forges a new connection with a teammate or classmate. Riley helps him with things like filters, hash tags and Instagram lingo.
Social media may have its downsides, but it also can serve as a bridge to social connection, particularly when forming those initial connections is difficult, as it has always been for Ryan. That is proving to be the case with Ryan and his collection of friends.