Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Friday, January 20, 2012

Facebook Fury

Friends who have heard my rant about kids on Facebook will be surprised to hear that my position has changed somewhat. My own kids will be especially surprised! I still consider Facebook to be a wicked time suck and I remain convinced that it is a portal to evil and dangers of monstrous proportions but... I'm impressed by the way kids use Facebook to make connections; connections, I'll admit, I used to think lacked substance. Please don't misunderstand me, I don't think having hundreds or thousands of Facebook "friends" has anything to do with making connections. Rather, I'm talking about the fact that our kids check their Facebook pages, become aware of the birthdays of friends and relatives who live far away, and connect with good wishes, happy thoughts and interest. I actually love the fact that our daughters are aware of the things going on in the lives of our extended families and that those connections have become very important to them. Facebook has helped them cultivate relationships and strengthen bonds in spite of itself. Who knew?

I wish, of course, that this was the end of it but it really is a time suck and it really does open to the door to more harm than was imaginable when I was a kid. Should our daughters read this blog post, it will, of course, be met by the most extreme eye-roll of all time. I am not one to shy away in the face of an eye-roll. Parents have a responsibility to learn as much as they can about Facebook and impart that wisdom to their kids, regardless of whether or not kids' accept the parents' perspective as "wisdom". Here are some of the nuggets my poor, unfortunate offspring have the pleasure of hearing regularly:

1. If you have a party and then post pics on Facebook for all your "friends" to see, then do so knowing that you are letting certain "friends" know they were not included. While I firmly believe that kids need to learn that not everyone is invited to everything and they need to learn how to cope with not being included, I also believe that you need to own your decisions, including whom you've decided to invite to what and the fact that rubbing someone else's face in it on Facebook is hurtful and very uncool. Many of us try to teach our kids to think before acting and speaking and Facebook is no exception - before posting a pic, consider what message you are sending and what the implications may be. It's no excuse to say "I didn't mean to..." Forewarned, forearmed.
2. What goes on the internet stays on the internet. It can never be erased. And much of what people think is hidden but remains online is ultimately embarrassing, humiliating or devastating to someone or will be at some point.This reality transcends embarrassment today and puts many Facebook users at the mercy of college admission offices and potential future employers because you never know how much they'll vet (note that this employer warning is no exaggeration; when we hire at my office, we immediately look at the Facebook page of every applicant who passes the resume test; many go no further). Word to the wise: at the very least, consider your privacy settings and immediately delete anything questionable or inappropriate posted on your wall.
3. If you are determined to "friend" everyone on earth, then remember who those friends are and keep in mind that they can follow threads of conversations you have with others.  Many kids "friend" teachers and friends of  their parents and then post with abandon. Eeeeewwwww.
4. Don't  hack someone else's Facebook page and post a hacked status message and don't laugh or otherwise encourage others to do this to you. Think about it.

I think that's enough for now. Needless to say, there's more to come. So much more. But while I work all that out, here's a fantastic book selection for you and your kids. The Future of Us by Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher is one of the best YA (young adult) books I've read in the last 6 months. Depending on reading level and sophistication, kids as young as 11-ish will love it, all ages of teens will love it and parents of teens will love it too. The book is set in the mid-90s when the internet was just starting to pick up speed and Facebook hadn't been invented yet. Two teens insert an America Online CD-ROM (remember those?!) and end up viewing their Facebook pages 15 years in the future. Once the initial confusion subsides and they come to terms with the fact that they are glimpsing their futures, they also begin to realize that the future changes with every action and reaction in the present. It's a clever and witty and moving tribute to teens, friendship, our grasp of  the future and our limited understanding of the technologies available. It's a completely satisfying read!

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