Facebook: It's not going away

Monday, May 30, 2011

A couple years ago, after months of resisting, I gave in and became a "Facebooker" I loved reconnecting with old high school and college friends whom I'd lost touch with. I enjoyed seeing my 500 friends' daily status updates and pictures of their families. I was hooked. When "friend requests" came in I felt like a high school girl tallying her votes for homecoming queen. But like everything else that comes on the scene with great gusto, I figured this too would be a fad that would be fade into oblivion in a matter of years. Boy, was I wrong. Facebook is now on track to replace Google as a search engine, to be your prime source for checking email and an app to get to their page is pretty much standard on every phone.

I have a handful of friends (including my own husband) who eschew the social networking sensation for various reasons. They regularly let others know that they "hate Facebook" or "I don't text." To each his own. However, I recently had an experience which reminded me that, like it or not, social networking and technology is not going away. And if you are in a position of influence or wish to have relationship with today's young people, then you'll want to know all the ins and outs of this craze. As much as you wish they would "pick up the phone and call you" they won't. Even if you're convinced that they can't handle the amount of information relayed via a computer screen or phone, they're not going to suddenly start "talking face to face." Believe me I've preached this in my own house with no success. I put limits on the texting, computer usage and screen time in general. When the minutes are up, neither of my adolescents change their behavior. They would rather do without than be forced to behave in such an outdated way as calling someone's home on a landline. It's worse than having me kiss and hug them in front of their friends!

All my ranting and raving wasn't getting me anywhere so I took more of the approach of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." As much as I hate to admit it, we have had actual instant message conversations while we're both in the same house. I find they are willing to be a lot more open with me than when we're sitting next to one another at the kitchen table. I can see how it makes them feel like we're on more of a level playing field--even though they know I'm not their friend. A willingness to meet them where they're at shows them I'm not going to dig in my stubborn heels and refuse to accept the rapid changes of their culture. It's a delicate balance and I know I'm not getting it perfect all the time but I have found the arguments between us are fewer than before.

Now on to my story................my middle son and his friends were putting their index fingers under their noses and saying "I'm Hitler." One girl took pictures of some of them with her phone and my son and another girl said "We should tag her" about one of the girls in the picture. They meant "tag" as in identify her on their Facebook page in the picture once it's posted. Unfortunately one of the girls they were referring to was Jewish and she thought the kids were speaking of imitating Hitler's horrific acts during the Holocaust. The teacher got wind of this and came unglued. He assumed my son was being Anti-Semitic and let him have it. I got a phone call letting me know of the situation--from his perspective. When my son got home, I asked him about it and he told me what I just relayed at the beginning of this paragraph. My child (and likely the other children with him at lunch) was unaware of the history behind Nazi Germany and had no idea how his actions were being construed. It was a great teachable moment for both of us. However, if his teacher, who spends his entire day with 11 & 12 year olds, had spent some time familiarizing himself with Facebook terms and how his students spend their time socially, it would have made for a lot less drama and a little more understanding. And perhaps a "teachable moment" for everyone.

I'm not saying I agree with everything about our current culture. Nor do I think kids should be joking about anything to do with Adolf Hitler. I do think though, that a little bit of acceptance and knowledge of today's adolescents, whether you like it or not, would go a long way.