The Grand Social Media Experiment. We learn by doing.


Social Media in the Deaf Community J(“o”)

Generally speaking, technology has been more of a source of angst and perhaps even aggravation for most of my early life. Usually I felt as though I was always behind the curve and reluctantly scampering to catch up with the crowd. However, my son Shayne, changed all that for me. Shayne, the youngest of my three sons, was born in 1994. My pregnancy was difficult and although he was a term delivery, he weighed only 4 lbs 5 oz. and 19 inches long. Shayne was developmentally delayed; he had difficulty holding his little bobbing head up. He sat up at nine months, crawled at a year and didn’t walk until he was 2 years old. The week he turned one year old we learned, as suspected, that he was indeed profoundly deaf. From that moment, my perception of the world changed drastically–it was now all about Shayne and making his life the best it could be.

Over the years as Shayne grew up, so did the world of technology, as if it were just for him in some way. Less than ten years ago I remember our first Video Phone which operated with a modem and a small television set. Shayne sat for hours signing in real-time with his friends from school while working on his homework. A few short years ago, he got his first phone and we were able communicate through text regardless of where we were. As a mother, it was reassuring to know that Shayne could reach me if he needed me anytime, anywhere. Before that time texting was very foreign to me but I upgraded my phone quickly so I could communicate with my son. You might say, I was motivated by love to embrace technology as a gift.

Shortly thereafter, Shayne got his first smart phone and instantly his video phone was obsolete. All of his friends had the same type of phone and texting was replaced by live video chat. Today, our entire family is connected by laptops and smartphones. When I asked Shayne which channels of social media that he and his friends use the most, he told me has tried many of them, but he uses Facebook and Twitter the most. Shayne and his friends also love to tell stories via youtube videos. Attached is one that he created after he got his Apple computer with the built-in camera. He was so excited to communicate his new device with his friends. Since then he has created several videos and vines. He is very visually creative and I am so thankful that he was born at this time in history so he has the opportunity to express himself via so many different channels.

Many years ago, Shayne lost interest in the cochlear implant, mostly due to peer pressure. Over the last weekend, he approached me and expressed his desire to use it again. What that means is technology will continue to play an important role in our lives as a family. Shayne’s need to communicate has removed any apprehension I may have had otherwise. His needs superseded my anxieties and planted a desire to give my son the very best connection to the world. Social media is his lifeline and until he got his car a few months ago, was his social life. Also, because Shayne detested reading, social media exposure has taught Shayne the finer nuances of the English language. Social Media has broadened Shayne’s horizons and has had a strong and lasting positive impact on his life and that of our entire family. J(*V*)