One aspect of the Internet I like a great deal is the way it has been able to bring people together. If you consider that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet, the Internet, especially social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace have helped the world become a lot “friendlier.”
That’s why I read PluggedIn: Facebook lets friends share private view of Web By Eric Auchard Fri Jul 6, 1:15 PM ET (Reuters) with dismay. In this article, Mr. Auchard mentions that while Facebook has 29 million active users, and is signing up (as of this post) more than 150,000 members a day, up from its pace of 100,000 six weeks ago, many of these new users are adults. Apparently Facebook kids are taking exception to this (as if they own the net and regulate who visits “their” sites).
Apparently, there’s even a kiddie protest group called “Facebook Should Be Students ONLY” and it has 30,000 little “Abbie Hoffmans” (they won’t know who that is, but if you are in the “to-be-banned-from-Facebook-group” you will). According to the Reuters article, one 15-year old girl, who writes in shorthand (maybe she has been too busy text-ing in English class to learn how to write properly) that Facebook should only be for students. She complains that her CHOIR teacher has a Facebook page, and therefore, possibly, might be so interested in her students that she could access a chid’s site, and see what they’re up to. Wow, now that’s a threat to peace and privacy! I mean, what is this world coming to? Is it no longer a happy world now that a choir teacher can what her students are up to, including being able to read anything those kids write about other people–maybe even teachers?
My grandmother had an expression I love and is valid here: “when you spit, you can’t pick it up.” In other words, if you put something out in public, others will see it and you can’t take it back. So, why should a 15-year old dictate feel she can dictate to the entire universe, who can read something she puts on a public forum, and who can’t? If she wants to portray herself in ways that others might find unacceptable or unflattering, she should do so in private, in a diary (that’s assuming that this little girl can actually write out a full sentence).
On the positive side of things, I give the “Facebook Should Be Students ONLY” group some props for organizing. Getting together over a cause is a positive experience for youngsters. I protested the Vietnam war, although admittedly it wasn’t as important as banning my teachers from Facebook. I do not like the idea that anyone, or any group, should try to dictate who should be allowed on an open, public, not-in-any-way-owned-by-them, online community. If these kids don’t want their parents, or teachers, or some kid they don’t like, to be in their community, here’s the larger lesson of the world: you can’t always pick and choose who you’ll rub elbows with in public, even if the public is a social networking site on the world wide web. Teenagers who don’t feel safe allowing an adult to view their web page, might think twice about what they’re putting on it, instead of resorting to clique-ish behavior. When I go into a public venue, such as the subway, there are plenty of people I’d rather not see, or sit next to, or even be in the same train with. I might even see someone I know that I’d rather not have see me. But it’s a free country. These people are in a public arena and they’re entitled to join me on the subway if they wish.
The same is true of the Internet, and especially social networking sites that are trying to promote interaction from all angles. The net is, for better or worse, open to everyone. That includes parents, and predators, as well as kind hearted strangers, and kids. You can’t shut people out, but by not doing so, you let people in. That is what makes the net wonderful, frustrating and sometimes, dangerous.
I do have a suggestion for the “Facebook Should Be Students ONLY” group. If you really want to be alone with just your BF’s, build a treehouse, climb in, and shut the door!
By the way, if you’d like to see my Facebook page, click on the B&W photo on the right hand side of this blog page. I’d be happy to have you visit.