Monday, June 16, 2008

What's the Big Deal About Social Networking?

I have had a Facebook account for several years, ever since Chad began showing an interest. I opened the account fully intending to use it as spyware to keep tabs on the content of my son’s cyber life. But let’s face it, spying is not what it is cracked up to be and sometime after signing onto Facebook I decided that Chad had never done anything to make me suspicious or to distrust him in any way, so there account rested - dormant until this week.

My decision to awaken my Facebook account came from a renewed interest in technology and its implication for education. I wanted to research the arenas where kids are connecting outside of school to understand how we can use this information to connect them INSIDE school. I know this isn’t a new pedagogical facet in education, but there are many new technologies that are simply not being utilized to reach kids. Social networking (Facebook, Myspace etc...) is one area that has grown tremendously in the last five years.

Shortly after reviving my Facebook account, setting up my profile and organizing my home page—I began to find “friends”. For those of you unfamiliar with Facebook, you can search for people that you might know, send a message you want to add them as a “friend” and once they accept—that’s when the fun begins. At this point you can look at their “friend list” and see if you know anyone, request to be a friend and within cyber-minutes you have your own “friend list”. It cuts “six degrees of separation” down to one or two. One of the amusing aspects of “friends” is finding folks with whom you have lost touch. With one click of the mouse, you are back in the middle of their lives. Within minutes you know if they are married, where they are living, if they have children, where they are working, if they had sushi for dinner etc….

I admit that I am far and above the average age of the normal Facebook client. Most of the Facebook population includes late teens and young adults. What was most surprising was that many of them have 200 to 400 friends! WOW! How can you have 317 “friends”? I have a hard time keeping up with the real ones that I actually see and meet for coffee on a regular basis (my generation is showing) or the few more who I email on a daily or weekly basis.

This got me thinking about what social networking means to this next generation (generation Y if you will). Keep in mind that you can’t complete any task on Facebook without the entire network knowing what you did. If you change anything, write anything, or navigate anywhere within Facebook, it is recorded it on your “mini-feed” for all to see – “Marsha, changed her weight to 130 pounds.” Which comes to my next question. Don’t these people care about privacy? In talking this over with Kent he brought up a great point. He said people of generation Y have a different concept of privacy than generations before. They view their life as an open book to be shared with any and everyone. It is more important for them to connect by revealing aspects of themselves that many of us “older folks” would never share, let alone print on a public page for all to read. The caveat is that a fair amount of information is, well less than truthful, so discernment becomes a skill necessary to cipher genuine intentions; a skill I am not sure most young people have fully developed.

Cataloging 317 friends on your Facebook account does not necessary signify popularity. It does; however, suggest that you are resourceful and there is a part of me that wonders, “Why can’t I have 317 friends, instead of my measly 27?” Fact is, I really don’t want 317 Facebook friends, but I understand why my younger cohorts would.

I enjoy the social aspect of Facebook. There are components of it that I find addicting. You truly could sit at your computer all day sending “flair”, “hugs” even “Iconograms”. You could play “text twirl”, “superheros” or find out “what Simpson’s character are you”, but in the end you eventually have to venture back out into the real world and develop real relationships---don’t you?

Until then—feel free to visit me—even become my friend.

Marsha's Facebook


Anonymous said...

I started on Facebook for similar reasons; to keep in touch with family and friends.

But, as you observed, it's easy to let this thing suck up hours of your time. Time better spent doing other the real world.

When I look at my Facebook now I more or less pronounce upon those I know who currently don't "have a life" because they are obviously on Facebook playing with all those little apps.

I grew weary of the apps and invites and eventually disabled all but the most essential of apps. I ignore every invitation I receive now as well.

There's still a little bit - very little - that I do via Facebook, but I spend more time (computer time) doing the blogging thing (whether reading or writing).

I remarked to Ann the other day, "I probably don't get any e-mail 'cuz I don't sent any e-mail." She allowed that this made sense.

I don't know. Computers can be and are useful tools, but there is so much about them to dislike too. Guess that's the curmudgeon in me talking.

Interesting post, though.


Evan and Julia said...

Although vociferously hates the fact that I continue to read, it does have some interesting articles. This article on facebook etiquette connects well to what you're saying.

As someone who hates to even answer the phone, facebook gives me my 20 feet of personal space and the ability to still seem nice. With a few exceptions, it’s nothing personal.

Anonymous said...

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